Obituary - John J. Burns
John J. Burns, 83, an avid auto racing enthusiast, lived the kind of life many men only dream about. He participated in the sport he so loved as a race car driver, a driving instructor, a pace car driver and a racing official. Burns, of Sebring, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia, died in his sleep on Sunday, October 10th at 6:17 a.m. at Hospice Atlanta after battling pneumonia, circulation problems and dementia.
As a youngster, John was fascinated with all things that went fast and had a motor, like many young boys his age. He loved cars, airplanes, motorcycles, and boats. He often got in trouble for skipping school to hang out at the Detroit Airport, where he swept hangars in exchange for airplane rides. He would "borrow" his Dad's Ford Model T before he was even a teenager to go for joy rides. He had a Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar with which he made deliveries as a teenager. Eventually he even owned and flew his own small Piper airplane.
In the 1960s and 70s, Burns concentrated on cars, as he raced a Triumph TR- 4 and a Mini-Cooper, respectively, as an amateur SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) race car driver. He was a driving instructor at Road Atlanta for many years. He became the official pace car driver for the Road Atlanta race track in 1969, which he continued for over 20 years. As a member of SCCA for over 40 years, he served as a racing official at race tracks all over the country for the last 25 years or more. He helped organize and officiate at the inaugural Grand Bahama Vintage Grand Prixs in the 1980s. He was a vintage racing official for both the HSR (Historic Sports Racing) and SVRA (Southern Vintage Racing Association) for many years. The last race he attended was the 12 Hours of Sebring race in Sebring, Florida, his all-time favorite, in March of this year.
Earlier in his professional life, Burns worked in sales. His outgoing personality and love for people helped him to excel in this field. Burns and his former wife, Glenda, had three daughters, Sandy Lynn and Barbara Burns, both of Atlanta, Georgia, and Jennifer Burns of Santa Monica, California. He has two grandchildren in Atlanta, Amy (22) and Eric (14) Boyd. Burns was also an avid deep-sea fisherman; often taking trips to the Florida Keys, as well the Caribbean and Central America.
Memorial services are currently being planned. His body was cremated. The family requests in lieu of flowers, anyone who would like to make a donation in John Burns' name can donate to Motorsports Ministries, a non- profit organization that services the spiritual needs of the motorsports industry (www.motosportsministries.org or 707-523-4780) or the Florida- based Boggy Creek Gang Camp (www.boggycreek.org or 352-483-4200) for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses, which was co-founded by his racing friend, Paul Newman.
Burns will be greatly missed by all of those who loved and knew him. A void will be left in the racing community from the loss of this exceptional man.