James William ‘Jim’ Burns III, 84, partial to walking on his hands

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James William 'Jim' Burns III
James William ‘Jim’ Burns III

James William ‘Jim’ Burns III, 84, otherwise known to his friends and family as ‘Jimmy,’ ‘J.B.,’ ‘Mr. Burns,’ ‘Coach,’ ‘Mr. Bernstein,’ ‘JimGym,’ ‘St. James,’ ‘Dad,’ and ‘Papa,’ passed away Wednesday, April 19, 2017. He spent his last days surrounded by his loved ones.

Jim will always be remembered as the guy who did handstands on the roof, even at 70 years old; Coach Burns, leader of the gymnastics’ team; body-builder extraordinaire; the guy who ran the Marine Corps Marathon at 60 years old; and faithful Christian, thoughtful husband, amazing father, fun-loving grandfather and loyal friend.

Jim married his beautiful wife, Marlene, in 1957. They were blessed to have 60 great years together. Before having children, they enjoyed 10 years where they were able to travel the country and enjoy time together. A holiday never passed where Jim didn’t get Marlene thoughtful gifts.

She and the girls always came first. They had two incredible daughters, Lisa and Melanie (can you guess who wrote this?). He walked both girls down the aisle at their weddings, and he wasn’t on his hands. Lisa married Chris Wassel and Melanie married John Hodge. Lisa and Chris have three children, Brynne, Killian and Reilly. Melanie and John have two kids, Kelsey and Grady. Jim enjoyed many years of eating popcorn, drinking Slurpees and doing gymnastics with his kids and grandkids.

On a perfect day, you would find him with a Slurpee in hand, a tomato sandwich on the table and a Redskins game playing on the television. He sure did love his cookies and Coke, too. Funny that the chair acts he did back in the day, were done balancing precariously on top of Coke bottles! You never knew where you might find him. It could be rolling down Barnsley Lane while doing a handstand on a skateboard, on top of our two-story house in a handstand or walking out of a pizza joint on his hands. I got the feeling he preferred being upside down to being right-side up.

Jim struggled in school as a child and had a terrible time reading. Through hard work, perseverance and the help of his wife, he went back to school at Columbia Union College and got his B.A. in physical education. After getting his degree, he spent his entire career serving others at CUC. He went on to receive his master’s degree from the University of Maryland and worked many hours toward his doctorate. One of his favorite things to do was going on trips with his gymnastics’ team and witnessing through their performances. He was head of the Physical Education Department at CUC for most of those years and then finished out his career in the library as circulation manager.

Everything he did was done with a grateful heart and a positive attitude. He was known for his kindness, generosity and great sense of humor. Jim didn’t have a serious bone in his body. He could find the funny in just about anything. Nothing made him happier than clowning around and making people laugh.

Jim passed on more than one of his traits and passions. Running was also a big part of his life. Lisa, Chris, Melanie and Grady all inherited the running bug. Jim and Chris ran the Marine Corps Marathon together when Jim was 60. Later, Melanie also completed the Marine Corps Marathon. Lisa and Melanie both ran multiple half-marathons, and now Grady runs track in high school and can proudly share that he can run a mile in 5:05 minutes.

Everyone who knew Jim loved him. He was one of the most patient people you’d ever meet. He always put others first. Jim was an inspiration to many. I don’t think he realized how many people’s lives he touched. One of his other redeeming qualities was humility.

Jim loved the Lord with all his heart. He led his life by example. To him, the glass was always half full. With friends and family he never said goodbye. His parting sentiment was always “Peace…in the valley.” So to you I say “Peace…in the valley…until we meet again.”

The family will receive friends from 10 to 11 a.m. Monday, April 24, at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, 3989 John Tyler Highway, Williamsburg, where a funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 25, at Cedar Hill Cemetery, 4111 Pennsylvania Ave., Suitland, MD.

Please share online condolences at bucktroutfuneralhome.net.