Jerry Burns Day recalls contributions of former editor
The first “Jerry Burns Day” was celebrated with stories, a reading of the town’s new resolution declaring June 18 as a day to be kept in his honor and a meal of lemonade and pound cake.
Burns, the editor of The Blowing Rocket from 1965 to 2009, died after a short battle with cancer in 2010.
Nicknamed “Mr. Blowing Rock,” Burns lived in downtown Blowing Rock his entire life, except for a short period in the early 1960s when he served in the U.S. Navy.
“When Jerry was dying, we all got together to honor him and it was sad,” said Ginny Stevens, a family friend and a member of the Blowing Rock Historical Society. “Today is supposed to be fun.”
“Jerry was a tireless advocate for Blowing Rock, he was always on our team,” said Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence. “He was always pulling for his hometown and all the things he did, he did for all of us. He is sorely missed.”
Doug Pegram, current president of the Blowing Rock Historical Society, read a piece from The Blowing Rocket written by Burns in 2000.
The piece, titled “The Marble Tree,” described an old maple tree behind Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church. Burns remembered fondly of how his dad and some of the other fathers would plant shooting marbles around the base of the tree and in the ground near the tree. They told their rowdy sons that if they were quiet and diligent, they could find the marbles that the tree would give.
It was a way of keeping the rambunctious youngsters busy and quiet during the Sunday service at Rumple.
“I’ve still got my marbles from childhood,” read Pegram from Burns’ article. “Some are nicked a bit and others have turned milky around the cat’s eye, but I’ve still got them there in a big bowl in the center of the bookshelf in the den.”
“And dad, I still consider them among my most favorite possessions,” the article read. “Every once in a while I’ll grab a couple of them and wedge one into the knuckle of my thumb and tip my first finger and then flip my thumb to see if I can knock one out of the circle and leave my ‘shooter’ spinning in place, ready for the next shot. (You know, my aim is still true and the only problem was when my ‘shooter’ hit its target, the target marble shattered into pieces.)
“So, if you park in Rumple’s parking lot on Wallingford and you walk by that old maple on the way into church, please be reverent and quiet. After all, there might be marbles on the bud and it would be a shame to deny some lad from discovering. …”
During the celebration, attendees were allowed the privilege of taking one of Burns’ marbles home with them.
“I keep trying to think of what Jerry would say about all of this,” said Janice Burns, Jerry’s widow. “I think he would’ve said, ‘Absolutely not.’ But he loved Ginny and would’ve done anything for her, so I’m sure he would’ve agreed to do it for her.”
“But I think Jerry would’ve wanted to use this day as a way of honoring the families of this town, the places and the organizations that he so loved. He would’ve wanted us to think about other people. That’s what he was all about,” she said.