An intrepid world traveler, John (aka JVB) met the love of his life, Jean Dyer McGregor, while stationed in post-war Britain with the US Air Force. Having whisked Jean across the pond, John vowed to stay closely connected to her Welsh family, becoming a beloved in-law and uncle to the McGregor clan.
With boundless curiosity, John delighted in the design of everything from soap bubbles to bridges, fulfilled by his work on aerospace systems as a mechanical engineer with Sundstrand Aviation for 34 years after graduating from Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE).
John warmly welcomed diverse people and cultures into his life. His stewardship of decades as a deacon in Bethesda Covenant Church included sponsoring the Lao community resettlement for whom he led a combination Sunday school / English class. JVB’s friendships with Laotians were fostered by his generosity of time; assisting with the navigation of multiple bureaucracies as they acclimated to their new country. A highlight for John was the invitation (accepted, of course,) from a dear Lao family to accompany them to their homeland as an honored guest.
A natural teacher, JVB delighted in engaging young minds, always at the ready with a question, an answer, or a kite to captivate their interest. On many a foreign field, when a strong wind and a willing stranger or two presented themselves, quick friendships were made. Kites flew over Lake Huron, off a ferry crossing the Long Island Sound, above Japan and near an international border in the Middle East that brought the military police within moments to shut down the errant flight.
John took leadership roles in developing services for those grappling with mental illness and their families as a lay teacher and board member of NAMI-Northern Illinois and Stepping Stone for over 25 years.
John is preceded in death by his wife Jean (born Dyer McGregor), son Andrew, brother Bob (Alice), and parents Clem and Barbara.
John is survived by his siblings: Mary Anne Doherty, Catherine Harrison, James, Margaret, and David; his children: Catherine (Bruce), Stephen (Suzanne), Barbara, Gregory (Kay), and Linda Campbell; by his grandchildren: Ian Campbell (Colleen), Blaine Campbell (Yoko), Caitlin Campbell, Michael (Jamie), Jessica, Kelsey, Erin Wintervold and Lee Wintervold, and by nine great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at Bethesda Covenant Church, at 2101 E. State St. in Rockford, IL on Dec 22, 2023. Visitation begins at 10:30am with a celebration of life at noon. The family will gather for a private interment at a future time.
Please leave a memory for the family on John Burns’ Guestbook; your stories will bring comfort to his family.
In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation in John’s name to NAMI-Northern Illinois at https://naminorthernillinois.org/get-involved/donate/