Burns—JoAnne Dill Burns, 80, on July 1, 2022, in Newport Beach, Calif. JoAnne was born on March 10, 1942, in Elmwood Park, N.J. JoAnne learned to read and memorize poetry at her mother’s knee. A voracious reader, JoAnne showed an avid interest in Broadway, performing in school plays and traveling to New York City to interview stars for her school paper.
Her affinity for the arts grew into a defining through-line. She studied voice and French, and earned a master’s degree in English literature. As an English teacher and drama coach in Southern New Jersey, JoAnne developed a reputation for directing high-quality school plays and musicals. In her “spare time,” she acted and sang in dinner theater. She had a beautiful singing voice, knew a wide variety of show tunes, and could spontaneously break into song (typically with comic flourishes!). She wrote prize-winning poetry (Poet’s Page, California State Poetry Society), and her booklet, Somewhere Between . . . a Year in Poetry, can be found on the shelves of Orange County (Calif.) Meeting’s library.
JoAnne grew up Presbyterian, but her interest was caught by the historic Woodbury (N.J.) Meetinghouse, which was built in 1715. She attended her first meeting at age 36. She began to spend time with members, especially the older weighty Friends. She found herself drawn to the values of peace, equity, integrity, and community, and admired the way Friends had integrated these values into daily life. She also appreciated the respect that Friends held for each person’s individual connection with, and understanding of, the Divine. After attending for a few years, she knew she was ready to become a member. One Friend recalled how JoAnne would occasionally rise for ministry and beautifully recite a poem that would somehow capture the overall sense of the meeting.
The love of her life was August Burns, whom she married while in her 40s. The couple moved to Newport Beach, Calif., traveled frequently, and summered at their lovely farm in New Hampshire. JoAnne focused on reading, writing poetry, Quaker service, and rescuing and caring for her beloved cats. When Augie became ill after 20 years of marriage, she found her knowledge gained from a Respiratory Therapy Certificate to be beneficial. After he passed, JoAnne continued to spend happy hours with Augie’s two sons, Duke and Chip, daughter-in-law Bobbi, and other cherished friends and family. This typically included an annual trip to Broadway.
On January 22, 2012, members of Orange County Meeting enthusiastically approved JoAnne’s request to become a member. For a number of years, JoAnne had been an active and much loved part of the meeting, always arriving on Sundays extra early, so that there would be hot coffee and goodies ready when the “official” opener arrived!
Over the years, JoAnne served as the meeting’s representative for Orange County Interfaith Network. She attended the meeting’s Craft Group and Book Group, led the Poetry Group, and served on various committees: Nominating, Ministry and Counsel, Facilities, and Hospitality (as clerk). She was an enthusiastic supporter of Orange County Meeting’s participation in local Pride events and the Irvine Harvest Festival. She bought and individually wrapped gifts for mothers and children sheltering from domestic violence at Human Options, so that they would have nice things to give one another for Christmas. All was done with extraordinary warmth and cheer.
JoAnne worked to achieve a sense of family within the meeting through her characteristic warmth and humor, a limerick contest, and so much more.
Joanne was predeceased by her husband, Augie Burns. She is survived by his two children, Duke Burns and Chip Burns; and their families.