Margaret Adele “Marn” Burns

Photo added by Philip R. Burns

Margaret Adele “Marn” Burns

  • Birth 23 Sep 1906 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
  • Death 7 Oct 1994 Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
  • Burial Hillside, Cook County, Illinois, USA
  • Memorial ID 68747967

Margaret Adele Burns was born on September 23, 1906 in Chicago, Illinois to John Michael Burns and Eva Josephine Tillotson. Shortly after her birth John and Eva moved from their first home on the South Side of Chicago to the West Side, into a home inherited from John's parents. The rest of the Burns children were born in the new home. John's sisters Kate Burns Quinn and Grace Burns Landers already lived nearby.

Everyone in the family called Margaret "Marn." A very few of Marn's friends from early childhood addressed her as "Peggy", so presumably she may have used that as a nickname for a while too.

Even as a child Margaret was very particular about some things. For example, she insisted her middle name be pronounced correctly: "It is pronounced Ay'-dell, not uh-dell'," she used to say. She also insisted that correspondents include her middle initial. "My middle initial is an integral portion of my name," she declared.

As a child Marn liked to wear a bow in her hair. The bow appears in many early photos of Marn.

Marn often sewed a name tag into her clothes. Perhaps this was because the Burns home acted as the "central hotel" for all visiting out-of-town relatives. Even the in-town relatives often came over with their children for lunch and dinner. As a result, clothes and toys could get rather mixed up.

One day Marn's younger brother Robert watched as Marn added a tag to a dress. He remarked, in the usual dry manner which he never lost, "I know why you sew your name into your dress. You want to make sure people know who you are if you drop dead in the street." No one recalls Marn's reply.

Marn typically put up her hair before going to bed. Upon observing this, Robert asked, "Why don't you just take off your hair before you go to bed and put it on the dresser like momma does?" Marn and Robert's mother Eva wore a switch which she took off before going to bed. Robert thought all women could detach their hair.

Marn took an early interest in foreign languages and geography. Those interests provided the foundation for her love of travelling later in life. She also studied piano for several years, but did not continue with her studies once she attended college. Nevertheless she never lost her love for piano music or classical music in general. As a child her nephews and nieces spent many happy hours listening to music with Marn.

Marn attended St. Mel grammar school and Austin High School. At Austin Marn engaged in many activities including the College Club, the "Y" Club, the Senior Council, the Civic Industrial Club, the Photographic Committee, the Spanish Club, the Athletic Association, and the Astral Club (honor society), among others. Marn reported her pet peeve was being teased about her long hair, although Marn wore her hair quite short all through high school. She never did get her hair to grow very long. Perhaps this was an example of Marn's droll sense of humor.

Marn's excellence in her studies at Austin merited her a one-year scholarship to The University of Chicago, which she entered in 1924. For her sophomore year, Marn transferred to the more affordable University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Marn was elected to Sigma Delta Pi, the national Spanish honorary fraternity, and also Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor fraternity. Marn became fluent in Spanish, a useful skill in her many later trips to Mexico, Spain, and Latin America. Marn also studied shorthand and became quite expert in the Munson and Pittman methods. She also developed excellent organizational skills which served her in all her jobs the rest of her life.

At the University of Illinois, Marn was assigned to a dorm without any heat. After getting used to sleeping in the cold, she decided she liked it and after that, of her own choice, she slept in a bed in a cold place, until the last few years of her life. Most of the time her bed was on a back porch.

In 1928 Marn was graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. After graduation, Marn accepted a teaching position at Leach Shorthand College.

During the 1930s Marn completed several extension courses in education and accounting at the University of Illinois. She also took courses in Pittman shorthand at Moser College and Loyola University. Marn taught shorthand, typing, and business methods in the Chicago public schools at Lakeview high school and Jones Commercial college.

Marn and Grace provided most of the family income during the 1930s. It was thanks to Marn that her younger brothers were able to attend college. Neither of Marn's parents had attended college, but they wanted their children to do so, and they all did.

The Burns family lived with several pet dogs over the years. Marn's favorite dog was Pepper, a lively and intelligent Boston Bull, who was her pet during the 1930s. Marn and Pepper were inseparable -- she even took him on vacation when feasible. She never found another dog to replace him.

In the 1940s Marn started working at the Chicago office of Stone and Webster, the largest engineering firm in the world for several decades. Stone and Webster built electrical powerplants, processing plants, tunnels, dams, nuclear power plants, and many other large scale works in the century of its existence. Marn retired from Stone and Webster in 1971.

Marn spent about nine restless months in retirement. She just could not stand being idle, so she returned to full-time employment, taking an office job at Mundelein College in Chicago. At that time Mundelein was still an independent women's college -- the last women's college in Illinois -- and not a part of Loyola University as it is today.

Marn worked for Mundelein until 1990 when she suffered a mild stroke. "At work a few days after Easter, I had been typing like fury," Marn recounted, "when it was necessary to get up and check a name in a file cabinet a couple of feet away. I suddenly found myself sitting on the floor for no reason. In a few minutes I got up and resumed typing when it suddenly occurred to me that did not seem normal. I called my sister Grace to come with her car. We headed for the doctor's office near home. He took a look at me and sent me a few blocks away to the hospital for a suite of tests, which verified his diagnosis that it was a type of stroke called a TIA."

Marn spent several weeks in the hospital in therapy. She continued: "Of course I had to give up my job, which I liked very much, and time hangs pretty heavy on my hands." Unfortunately this initial TIA was followed over the next few years by more serious strokes. Marn did her best to recover from each one. Right up to the end she was still trying to figure out how she might essay a final visit to her beloved Mexico. She never did get back to Mexico. A final stroke led to Marn's death on October 7, 1994. She is buried with her parents and her sister Grace in Queen of Heaven cemetery in Hillside, Illinois.

On her own, Marn travelled all over the world until the strokes she suffered in her 80s prevented her. She was absolutely fearless, travelling to places Westerners would not think to go, often alone except for a native guide -- into deepest Africa, up the Andes on donkey back, to the spot of a live volcanic eruption in progress (Paracutin in Mexico). Of course she also visited Europe, Latin and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Asia -- every continent but Antarctica. In 1952 she travelled all the way around the world by plane -- a rare feat in those days. Marn's very favorite place, the one she visited most often, was Mexico.

Marn and her sister Grace were both lovers of classical music. Among Marn's favorite pieces were "El Amor Brujo" by Manuel de Falla and "The Holy City" by Stephen Adams (nom de plume of Michael Maybrick).

Marn loved chocolates, especially Fannie May chocolates. I believe she knew the exact content of each and every piece of chocolate Fannie May ever produced!

Marn's favorite drink was Diet-Rite Cola. The odd juxtaposition of eating a large quantity of chocolate while drinking diet cola seemed perfectly natural to her nephews and nieces. Marn was also fond of eating plain crushed ice.

Marn and Grace were both great cooks. After their mother passed away, they continued her tradition of providing the meal for family gatherings. Marn was a terrific baker. Her apple, cherry, and chocolate pies were fabulous.

While Marn loved dogs, she did not like cats at all. Whenever Marn visited a cat-filled house, the cats would make a bee-line for Marn, even in the middle of a crowd, much to Marn's consternation.

Marn attended church regularly until she was no longer able to do so. She particularly enjoyed the music at the church she attended, Queen of All Saints. Marn also supported many charities.

Marn never learned to drive. She always took public transportation within the Chicago area, and used planes, trains, buses, ships, boats, and animals on vacation. Using public transportation, Marn often took her nephews and nieces on little excursions within the Chicago area. They travelled over Chicago by helicopter, and also on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan by boat. Trips of this sort provided a new vantage point on the familiar.

Family Members





  • Maintained by: Philip R. Burns
  • Originally Created by: Charles King
  • Added: 22 Apr 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 68747967
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Margaret Adele “Marn” Burns (23 Sep 1906–7 Oct 1994), Find A Grave Memorial no. 68747967, citing Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery, Hillside, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Philip R. Burns (contributor 46783574) .