Following a brief battle with cancer, Patricia “Pat” Ann Whitworth Burns passed away peacefully at home in Galveston on Sunday, October 9, 2016, surrounded by her loving family. Pat was born in 1937 on March 3 to Thomas Craney Whitworth and Clara Louise Lockett Whitworth, weighing only 3 pounds and 3 ounces; giving her a 3-3-3 story she delightfully shared with family and friends throughout her life. Pat was so tiny at birth, her parents brought her home in a typewriter box; a natural choice as her father was in the typewriter business, and a prophetic beginning given Pat learned to type an impressive 90 words a minute. A fourth generation Texan, Pat moved often with her family, always adapting to new schools and peer groups with comfort and ease.
During her 79 years, Pat lived courageously and fully, touching countless lives with her singular spirit. She was an extraordinary woman: a devoted wife to her husband of 58 years – her beloved Freddy; a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother; a tireless volunteer and gracious hostess; a loyal, caring friend, whose support was incomparable; a supporter of the arts in Houston and Galveston; and one of Galveston’s greatest advocates for preserving the Island’s rich history. Through every life stage, Pat’s brilliance and energy focused keenly on her abiding faith and unwavering commitment to family and community.
Pat’s first date with Frederick “Fred” Clifford Burns was to her Lamar High School senior prom – and that was the start of a love that became one for the ages. A prolific writer, Pat relished in penning a regular column in The Bellaire Texan as a teenager. She earned a college scholarship to Southwestern, but turned it down to stay closer to home, and closer to Fred, who was playing baseball while studying at Rice University. She worked at Gulf Oil Company and garnered several promotions and recognition for her typing speed and excellence in shorthand. They married on February 1, 1958, and after two years, began a family. Pat worked fulltime as a wife and mother; her interests and energy supported theirs, and she was forever in motion, driving carpools, leading scout troops, supporting piano and voice lessons, and all youth sports. In every organization she joined, she rose to a leadership position, and served as President of the PTA for each of her three children’s respective schools.
Establishing family traditions was paramount to Pat. Shopping at Foley’s and lunches upstairs at the original James Coney Island were routine mother-and-daughter outings. Shopping came naturally to Pat, and while her home and dress were always beautifully appointed, she could find a sales-rack faster than any shopper west of the Mississippi. Above all else, Christmas was her favorite tradition, and to Pat it was a yearlong celebration. Shopping and preparing for the next-best family Christmas brought her as much joy as the season itself.
Pat’s faith was the core of her being. A lifelong Methodist, Pat was an active servant throughout her life in various home-churches and Christian communities in Houston and Galveston. As a young woman, she served on the board of Bellaire Methodist Church and was president of their youth fellowship. For 25 years, she was a leader and administrator in Bible Study Fellowship in Houston, annually teaching more than 400 women. She taught Sunday School for 17 years, and for several years oversaw the Children’s Biblical Study Department for Houston’s St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, recruiting and mentoring teachers. In Galveston, she served on the boards of Moody Methodist Church and the Methodist Retirement System of Texas.
While living in Houston and vacationing at their home in Pirates Cove, Pat and Fred fell in love with Galveston’s beauty and history, which led them to restore several landmarks and furnish each with period antiques, art, and artifacts. Their first project was buying and restoring Galveston’s oldest residence, the 1838 Menard House. The project was recognized as the restoration of the year by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Pat and Fred gifted the home and surrounding property to the Galveston Historical Foundation, marking the largest-ever gift in the foundation’s history.
A life-changing event occurred in 1996 when Pat suffered a stroke. She was recruited to participate in a research project at UTMB, funded by The Moody Foundation, which required her to spend several hours each day in a hyperbaric chamber for nine months. At that point, Pat and Fred decided to make Galveston their primary residence, and devoted their energy and leadership to UTMB in countless initiatives and major campaigns, including UTMB’s 125th Anniversary Gala that Pat co-chaired in May of this year.
In 1996, they purchased the historic 1856 Hutchings Home from the University of Texas and opened their doors freely and generously to every community organization on the Island. For two decades, nearly every important gathering was held in their home, entertaining non-profit groups to politicians to theater stars.
Pat was a committed supporter of the performing arts. In Houston, she and Fred were active in the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera, and were the 2000 Houston Grand Opera Ball honorees. On the Island, Pat served as President of the Galveston Historical Foundation and the Grand 1894 Opera House, and served on the UTMB Development Board. Pat and Fred joined 33 individuals from across the United States to organize the National Trust Historic Preservation Council, which they chaired for two years. Pat was often honored for her many contributions to Galveston, including recipient of the Galveston Historical Foundation Steel Oleander Award and the Grand 1894 Opera House Community Enrichment Award. The Grand is dedicating its 2016-2017 performing arts season in memory of Pat and her many contributions.
Pat was a treasured friend, someone who was there when needed, and often knew the need before even being asked. She is survived by her husband, three children and their spouses, Dana Burns Black and husband Clifton, Frederick Clifford Burns, Jr. and wife Kay, Edward Drew Burns and wife Stephanie, seven grandchildren and their spouses, Clayton Obanion Black and wife Pamela, Colleen Elizabeth Black Falls and husband Craig, Frederick Clifford Burns III, Cameron Wesley Burns, Brayden English Burns, Brock Alexander Burns, and Emory Katherine Burns, and four great grandchildren, Caleb Obanion Black, Ella Suzanne Black, Talia Maria Falls, and Fletcher Imber Falls. She is also survived by her sisters, Ada Regina Whitworth Sterken Johnson, and Tommie Michele “Mickie” Whitworth Newton.
The family is grateful for Pat’s devoted caregivers Roniesha Francis, Kimberly Lovell, R.N., and Celeste Marshall, R.N.
A visitation will be held from five to seven o’clock in the evening on Thursday, the 13th of October, at Garten Verein in Galveston, 2704 Avenue O. A memorial service will be conducted at 11 o’clock in the morning on Friday, the 14th of October, at Moody Methodist Church in Galveston, 2803 53rd Street. Serving as honorary pallbearers will be James R. Davis, James B. Earthman, Juan C. Escalon, M.D., Irwin M. Herz, Brent E. Masel, and Don W. Powell, M.D.
In lieu of customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to the
Grand 1894 Opera House Permanent Fund, 2020 Postoffice Street, Galveston, Texas 77550, and Galveston Historical Foundation, 2228 Broadway Avenue J, Galveston, Texas 77550, or to the charity of your choice.