NAUGATUCK — Robert J. Burns, 94, husband of Phyllis (Kloc) Burns and long-time burgess for the Borough of Naugatuck, died peacefully on Oct. 22, 2020, at his home with his loving family by his side.
He was born in New Haven on Oct. 31, 1925, and moved to Naugatuck where he attended St. Francis School. Bob received a war diploma from Naugatuck High School. Like many of his countrymen, Bob joined the United States Navy to serve his country in WWII. Seaman 1st Class Burns became a crew member of LCI-591 and participated in the invasion at Normandy and on the beachhead in Southern France. He received the Good Conduct Medal, The American Theater Campaign Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Theater Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal. Bob was activated again for the Korean War on a mine sweeper and received the Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Medal.
He returned home to civilian life and began to serve his beloved Borough of Naugatuck. Bob was a dedicated employee of the Uniroyal Chemical for 56 years where he worked as a maintenance foreman. He formed many lifelong friendships at the Chemical and served as a mentor to many. Bob became involved in local government boards in the 1950s, beginning with the Welfare Board, and served as a burgess for 46 consecutive years. His commitment to the town was unwavering and he set an example for many that followed him.
Bob was instrumental in youth athletic programs in Naugatuck, coaching youth football in the Naugatuck Junior Football League for several years and coaching baseball in the Peter J. Foley Little League for over 40 years. Bob coached in the YMCA Little Pal Basketball League for more than 50 years with Naugatuck notables Ed Mariano, Don Dibble, Gene Massa, and more recently alongside his son, Bob Burns Jr., and grandson, Robert Burns III. The baseball field at Fairchild Park was named in honor of Bob.
Bob was a member of the American Legion Post 17, V.F.W. Crusader Post 1946, Catholic War Veterans and was a past member of the Veterans Who Care Committee. He was a life member of the B.P.O. Elks Lodge 967 and a parishioner of St. Francis of Assisi Church.
Bob received many honors over the years, including the Naugatuck Exchange Club Recognition of World War II Veterans, the Naugatuck YMCA Frederick D. Zonino Memorial Volunteer Award, Irish Mayor for the Day, a Citizen’s Award presented on Naugatuck Night at Yankee Stadium in June 1986, the Exchange Club’s Book of Golden Deeds Award, and the Legionnaire of the Month for June 2019. He was inducted into the Naugatuck Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Connecticut Veterans Hall of Fame in 2016. In December 2019, the Hall of Burgesses in Naugatuck Town Hall was named “Robert J. Burns, Sr. Hall of Burgesses.”
In addition to Phyllis, his wife of 67 years, Bob is survived by his sons, Robert J. Burns Jr. and his wife, Maria, Thomas Burns, and Kevin Burns and his, wife, Tina; his five grandchildren, Ryan, Robert III, Michael, Lauren and Shannon, who affectionately refer to him as “Pop.” Bob also leaves a twin sister, Rita Hubbell of Southbury; sister-in-law, Mary Rimkus of Naugatuck; sister-in-law, Cathy Cardinale and her husband, Louis, of Florida; and numerous nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. Truthfully, Bob always considered the residents of Naugatuck to be his extended family.
In addition to his parents, Hugh and Bridget (Roach) Burns, Bob was predeceased by his brother, John Burns.
The family would like to thank Dr. Zarif and the nurses at St. Mary’s Hospital Wound Center, the visiting nurses, and especially Aneta, Dana, Deven and Joanna.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 11 a.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church, 318 Church St., Naugatuck. Everyone attending is kindly asked to meet at church. Burial with military honors will immediately follow at St. James Cemetery, Cross Street, Naugatuck. Walk-through calling hours will be Monday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Buckmiller Thurston Mengacci Funeral Home, 82 Fairview Ave., Naugatuck. Members of the Naugatuck Veterans Council will assemble for a service Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the funeral home and the Naugatuck Elks will gather for a ritual at 6:50 p.m. at the funeral home. Facial coverings and appropriate social distancing will be required during all services.
In lieu of flowers and to honor Bob’s memory, donations can be made to Peter J. Foley Little League, 299 Scott St., Naugatuck, CT 06770.
To leave an online condolence, visit www.buckmillerthurstonmengacci.com.