Sunday, April 23, 2017

Pearl Burns, Grande Dame of New Mexico Wildflowers, Passes Away at Age 94

Please note this change of date for the Albuquerque Celebration of Life: An open house celebration will be held in Tijeras, New Mexico on Sunday, April 30 2:00-5:00 at the Sandia Ranger District Administration Building, 11776 Hwy. 337, Tijeras, New Mexico 87059. 

Pearl Burns in 2009 on the South Crest Trail
Pearl Burns, a former resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, passed way April 17, 2017 in Littleton, Colorado where she lived her final days with her family.  A Celebration of Life was held in Denver April 22, 2017 to honor Pearl's amazing life.  She was well-known for her passion and promotion of the preservation and enjoyment of our New Mexico wildflowers.  She trained me in 2009 to identify the beautiful wildflowers that grew in and around Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Along with myself, she trained many others to become interpretive guides who continue to carry on her legacy by leading Forest Service wildflower walks every summer.


Pearl's last wildflower walk as a Forest Service Volunteer
(Juan Tomas Road, August 25,  2012)

Pearl's 90th Birthday Celebration in Albuquerque, NM (September 7, 2012)

 Here is her obituary:

Pearl Marie Burns

September 7, 1922-April 17, 2017

Pearl was raised in the railroad town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Perhaps she got her determination from her mother, Florence Viola St. Clair, who was married, a mother and a widow at age 19. She might have gotten her height and strength from her father, Earl Hall, a fireman with the Rio Grande Railroad who was killed in a train derailment in 1923. And maybe she got her kindness from her step-father Dan Pitt, who raised her and her younger sister, Ila Pitt Jenson.
In her youth, Pearl enjoyed playing the saxophone in the Las Vegas High School Marching Band and Orchestra. Being an independent spirit, she was probably frustrated when she played half-court basketball, a limitation put upon the women of her time.  She enjoyed being creative, such as when she used her excellent seamstress skills to make dolls to sell while in high school.
Her intelligence was put to good use when she attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She expressed her strong American spirit when, with the advent of World War II and the growing need for nurses, she put her degree on hold, moved to Denver, married (and later divorced) Raymond “Red” Mohr, and enrolled in the Colorado Training School for Nurses. In her words, “I had signed up with the Cadet Nurses Corps so had a cute uniform to wear. The war was over before my nursing education was completed, but I had a career.” She was a working mother before it was in vogue, raising her two sons, Robert Mohr and his younger brother Thomas (Tommy) Mohr while working as a visiting nurse. Her fortitude was surely tested when caring for children with polio in the iron lung while working at Children’s Hospital, and later when her own son Tommy contracted polio at age five, and even the iron lung couldn’t save him.
She lived briefly in Clinton, Illinois, where she worked as a nurse at Revere Ware Copper and Brass. Later, she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she subsequently married Floyd “Burley” Burns and had sons, Gerald “Jerry” Burns, William ”Bill” Burns, and daughter, Candace Burns Ballantyne. In 1959, she began her favorite job of her career, in the delivery room at Presbyterian Hospital, where she once delivered a baby in the back seat of a car, much to the surprise of the father! She moved up through the ranks and her career climaxed as the Director of Nursing Services at Anna Kaseman Hospital, where she retired in 1980. 22 years later, she returned to the University of New Mexico and completed her Bachelor of Science in Biology. When the love of her life, Burley, predeceased her in 1981, she began to sprout wings.
Pearl continued her lifelong passions (bridge playing, reading, sewing, gardening, and knitting), but then began adding other talents to her skillset (upholstery, painting, weaving, quilting, and crocheting). Ginny Smith, one of the women in her upholstery class invited her to join her hiking group. She was also invited by longtime friend, Linda Buffett, to join the “Happy Hoofers” hiking group. On the first hike with Linda, she saw Ginny and realized it must be a great group of women, if they were both in it! It didn’t take much encouragement from her friends to get her outside more and combine her love of learning and nature. She increased her knowledge of the grasses, trees, bushes, and especially the wildflowers while hiking. That transitioned into backpacking with the “Meadow Muffins”, men and women who ascended New Mexico’s higher peaks and Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, and descended into the Grand Canyon and slot canyons. At 64, she hiked Uncompahgre, her first 14,000 peak. Year after year, she continued to add more peaks to her growing list, until her last 14er at age 83.
In middle age, she enjoyed downhill skiing with her children, and camping with her family. With each year, she spread her wings a little more, and in later in life she added cross country skiing, snowshoeing and white water rafting to her accomplishments, and traveled internationally with friends to New Zealand, Australia, South America and Europe.
As her knowledge of native plants and wildflowers grew, she began to lead wildflower hikes for the Sandia Ranger District and Albuquerque Open Space and she began to soar! In 2003, she was flown to Washington, D.C. to accept the National Forest Service Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2005, she co-authored the wildflower section of the “Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains” with Tom Ferguson and Jeanette Buffett. In 2011, she and Larry Littlefield co-authored “Wildflowers of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains of Central New Mexico”. In 2015, they collaborated again on “Wildflowers of the Northern and Central Mountains of New Mexico”.
When it became clear to Pearl that her hiking days were numbered, she worked with the Forest Service to begin training her successors. She was proud of the cohort of volunteers, her successors, who carry the torch for her, teaching a love for the outdoors and specifically, wildflowers. 
Pearl is survived by her sons, Robert Mohr; Jerry (Liz) Burns; and Bill (Marcia) Burns; daughter Candace Ballantyne (Bill Wharton); sister Ila Jenson; grandsons Tommy Burns; Bryan (Lynell) Burns, Jason (Stephanie) and Scott (Kayci) Burns; Burley (Deidra) Burns; Clint (Stacie) Burns; Garrett Burns; Dustin (Taylor) Burns, Kelly (Erin) Ballantyne, Jeff Ballantyne, and in addition to the blessing of six great grandsons, and FINALLY, seven great granddaughters.
There will be a celebration of her life in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, April 22, 2017 at 10:00 at New Denver Church, 700 Bonnie Brae Blvd., Denver, 80209 and a casual open house celebration in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Sunday, April 30 2:00-5:00 at the Sandia Ranger District Administration Building, 11776 Hwy. 337; Tijeras, New Mexico 87059. 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the following, or the organization of your choice.

Friends of the Sandia Mountains (Please make checks payable to FOSM)
PO Box 1832
Tijeras, New Mexico 87059

Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Gardens
2601 Central NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104