Community loses ‘true Southern gentleman’ in Pat Burns

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Remembered by all as a gentleman, Patrick Parnell Burns died late Wednesday at his residence. He was 91.

Active in business, church, social and civic activities throughout his long life in Natchez, Burns continued until recent months to go daily to the office of the insurance company he founded as Burns-Hicks Insurance Agency and later expanded to Byrne-Burns-Hicks Insurance.

&uot;Pat was not only my business partner; he was my best friend,&uot; said longtime associate Harold Hicks. &uot;Every day we talked about old times. Pat always knew what was going on.&uot;

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Services will be 2 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary Basilica. Visitation is 5 to 7 p.m. today at St. Mary, with a Rosary service at 7 p.m., and noon until service time Saturday.

One of his delights for many years was spending weekends at Lake St. John, his sister, Margaret Burns, recalled.

&uot;The lake was his life. He had a float boat with a horn that played music, and he played different tunes for different houses as he passed,&uot; she said.

Miss Burns said she and her brother and other siblings enjoyed a happy childhood.

He was the oldest of the eight Burns children. &uot;He was outgoing, a people person,&uot; she said. &uot;We had good family times. Someone told me not too long ago that they remembered passing our house on Main Street and thinking it was always a happy house.&uot;

Pat Burns was a 1933 graduate of Notre Dame and proud of it, his sister said.

&uot;He loved to take his two sons there for certain occasions, and at one time his daughters began to complain; so he took all six of his daughters there together at one time.&uot;

Miss Burns recalled that in recent months an admirer of her brother told her to tell him to &uot;get out of the bed. Tell him we need to see him walking down Main Street tipping his hat.&uot;

Until only recently, Pat Burns was a familiar face at the Natchez Post Office every weekday morning, when he would get the company mail and go to the office until lunch time. &uot;Then he would go home for lunch, take a nap and go back to the office in time to take the day’s mail to the post office,&uot; Miss Burns said.

Friend Joe Fortunato shared membership with Pat Burns in a coffee group that met at The Natchez Eola Hotel.

&uot;He was just one of the true Southern gentlemen,&uot; Fortunato said. &uot;He had coffee with us every morning.&uot;

Fortunato, who also has a lake house, recalls the boat and the friendly horn. &uot;We always knew when he was coming.&uot;

Nephew Peter Burns Jr. will remember exciting trips to the country with his uncle. &uot;He was really Uncle Pat to me, but he was to a lot of other children in the neighborhood,&uot; Peter Burns recalled. &uot;We’d load a pickup truck full of children and go out to some property the family owned and cut down little saplings, build a fire and shoot BB guns.&uot;

His uncle loved children and continued to take his grandchildren and their friends on the same kinds of trips to the country, Peter Burns said.

Pat Burns was born in Natchez on Dec. 28, 1911. He attended Cathedral schools before going to Notre Dame. He served in Italy during World War II, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

His devotion to St. Mary Basilica was evident through the many contributions of time and talent he made in serving on boards, councils and foundations.

Among the many honors he received, he enjoyed the role of St. Patrick when he was chosen for that role by the Krewe of Kilarney, family members said.