Mr. John William “Bill” Burns went home to be with his Lord and Savior on Sunday, January 29, 2023. Bill was born in Wilmington, NC to William Francis “Frank” Burns and Doris Brown Burns on February 2, 1934. He was preceded in death by his parents and his cherished sister, Bonnie, whom he affectionately called Tuter.
Bill is survived by his two sons and family, John “David” Burns (Kim), and James “Shannon” Burns (Tina). Other cherished family members include: granddaughters Jennifer Burns of Hamilton, Montana, Katherine Burns of Alexandria, Virginia, and Ashley Burns of Granite Falls, NC, his wife Julie Horrell Burns of Atkinson, NC, stepdaughters, Sheri Vereen and Misty Barnes, and his children’s mother and first wife, Shilda Berry Burns, of Granite Falls. Bill also considered his sister’s children as his own: Patsy Harris (Dudney), Vicky Schlenker (Pat), Johnny Perry (Jan), Doris Carlton (Steve), and their families.
A lifelong Episcopalian, Bill was christened at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Wilmington in 1938 and later became a member at St. James Episcopal Church in Lenoir, NC. Bill lived his faith quietly. He believed in the Golden Rule and always did anything he could for others. Bill was inducted as a member into the St. John’s Masonic Lodge #1 in Wilmington and later became a member of Conover Lodge #709 and Hibriten Lodge #262. He was a Mason for 60 years. Bill’s first and most important mentor was his shop teacher, Mr. CL Wolff. His love of woodworking began with Mr. Wolff, and in his youth, he worked part time in Wolff’s Cabinet Shop in Wilmington. Bill graduated from New Hanover High School in 1952. He joined the US Army in 1955 and was a surveyor while stationed in Italy. After the Army, he enrolled at North Carolina State University where he graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in Furniture Manufacturing and Management.
After graduation from NCSU, Bill worked for both Broyhill Furniture Company and Singer Furniture Company in management positions before co-founding Autumn House. In 1980, Bill left Autumn House to start his own company, Burns Wood Products. Bill considered his employees at Burns Wood Products to be family, often paying medical and dental bills as well as helping his employees complete their high school education by having a classroom built at his manufacturing plant. Bill cared deeply for his employees and their families and often took them on trips to Dollywood, the beach, or the zoo. Everyone mattered to Bill. Besides his sons, Bill considered Crystal Mills to be his adopted daughter and right hand at Burns Wood Products.
Bill was a master craftsman, carpenter, and engineer who could build or fix anything. He participated in building teams with the United Methodist Church and traveled numerous times to Central America and the Caribbean. Bill loved the ocean and spent most of his life visiting and living at his beloved Topsail Island. He was a skilled sailor (except for one time) and an excellent fisherman and cook. One of his greatest joys in life was entertaining his family and employees at his beach house on Topsail Island. Simply stated, he was a good man and a class act.
A service to remember and honor Bill’s life will be held on Saturday, February 4, 2023 at 2:00 P.M. at St. James Episcopal Church conducted by Rev. Susan Buchanan and Melissa Eggers.
The family will gather with friends and loved ones following the service at 3976 Temple Hill Church Road, Granite Falls, NC 28630.
Greer-McElveen Funeral Home and Crematory is assisting the Burns family.
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