Matt B. Burns Jr., a resident of Oak Harbor, Wash., died on Feb. 3, 2021 at the age of 94. He was born Jan. 7, 1927 in Seattle, Wash., and was raised in Spokane, Wash., during the Great Depression.
He spent a good part of his youth with his grandparents outside of Moscow, Idaho. As were most farming families, he was poor when it came to cash, but rich in ethics and imagination. He was proud of being able to harness a team of horses at the age of 12 and working long hours in the fields helping provide for the family. He dropped out of high school in 10th grade and worked as a milkman delivering milk door to door in his early years.
When he turned 17, Matt joined the U.S. Marine Corps. He graduated from boot camp in San Diego, Calif., in 1944, was assigned to fighter plane maintenance at MCAS El Toro, earned his GED and eventually became an FAA certified air traffic controller. When WWII ended, he came home to Spokane as an air traffic controller at Fairchild Air Force Base. He joined the U.S. Navy Reserves at Geiger Field, but always considered himself a Marine. He was stationed in Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, Atsugi, Japan, Olathe, Kansas and Brunswick, Ga., where he taught ATC school. He qualified for the U.S. Navy Rifle and Pistol Team, of which he was among the small number of Navy shooters who earned the Distinguished Shooter Medal. This earned him billets as small arms instructor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and NAS Sand Point Seattle, Wash., where he retired from the Navy after serving for 24 years.
Upon leaving the Navy, he tried logging, then went to school to earn his FAA certification as a both commercial pilot and airframe power plant licenses. He used those skills to work for the Issaquah School District, where he met his wife Joan. He and Joan married in 1976 and moved to the island of Kaua’I, Hawaii, where they built their home at Ha’ena on the North Shore, living there until 1996. Matt was a sales representative for Cedar Mark Homes, the North Shore “Mr. Fix-It Man.” He also served as a search-and-rescue pilot with the Civil Air Patrol on Kaua’i, advancing to the rank of major. Joan and Matt traveled to safari in Africa, visited Japan and New York and had a long and loving life together celebrating family and friends.
Matt and Joan came home to Washington state and resided in Oak Harbor, where he joined the Aircraft Owners Pilot Association. At age 75, he built a two place all metal aircraft from scratch, which he said was a lifelong goal. He later sold the aircraft where it flies to this day, in Australia.
Matt leaves behind the love of his life of 45 years, wife Joan Lydgate Burns. He is also survived by three children from a previous marriage, Danne Burns, Casey Burns and Becky Burns Quigley; two stepchildren, Laurie Haack Petroske and Steve Haack; eight grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren. Preceding him in death was daughter, Christine Burns.
Matt’s humor, kindness, art, writings and letters to the editor will be missed by all who knew him.
The family appreciates the guidance of Wallin Funeral Home in Oak Harbor, Wash., during this time. This obituary will be shared on their website www.wallinfuneralhome.com/memorials/matt-burns/4527997/