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WJ Burns
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Obituary for WJ Burns

World War II veteran and long-time Tonkawa resident W.J. Burns passed away Tues, August 8, 2017. He was 99 years and 75 days old. A graveside service will be held Wednesday, August 16, at 10 a.m. at the I.O.O.F cemetery in Tonkawa. Services are under the direction of Trout Funeral Home and Crematory.

W.J. was born May 25, 1918 in Billings, to Frank Joseph and Freta Maude George Burns. When W.J. was one, the family moved to the Tonkawa area where he resided until his late 80s. W.J. attended N.E. Center School District 67 from the first through eighth grades. His 2 1/2 mile trip to school was usually made on foot with an occasional "lucky" break riding a horse or taking the cart drawn by Topsy the pony. He attended University Prep School for one year and attended Tonkawa High School for two years.

W.J. enjoyed relating the memory of the 3-mile trip to high school from his home and the good fortune of occasionally hitching a ride with a passing car. One such ride was offered by none other than the gangster Pretty Boy Floyd. He stopped, introduced himself and drove W.J. right to the door of the high school. W.J. recalled there being a machine gun, sawed-off shotgun and a rifle in the vehicle and that Floyd was a frequent visitor to Tonkawa.

As a child, W.J. enjoyed working, including milking cows, gardening, haying and hauling water for the threshing machine- although he admitted it was a hard job hand-pumping the water. He learned to drive a steel-wheeled tractor by age 14 and knew he wanted to be a farmer. After high school, with jobs hard to find, W.J. would travel the northern states to work in bean and potato fields, bale hay and pick fruit. He usually returned to Oklahoma around Halloween and recalled the snowy roads he traveled to return home.

W.J. and the former Louise Ann Vrska were married Jan. 31, 1942 in Oklahoma City with the Rev. Germany officiating. Their union lasted 10 days shy of 60 years.

In April 1941, W.J. took a bus from Tonkawa to Oklahoma City to begin serving in the U.S. Army. A train took him to Fort Sill where he arrived at 10:30 p.m., ate and went straight to bed. At 4 a.m. he was awakened and sent to work in the mess hall for three days until being transferred to Camp Grant, Rockford, Ill., for basic training and medical training. He was assigned to Will Rogers Field 48th Fighter Group Medics. He worked in the base hospital before being transferred to multiple posts in the south including Hunter Army Air Field, Savannah, Ga.; Key Field, Meridian, Miss; William Northern Army Air Field, Bolivar, Tennessee; Walterboro Army Air Field, South Carolina, and Camp Shanks, N.Y., the final stateside stop for soldiers shipping out to the European Theater.

After a five-day voyage on the Queen Mary, the ship docked at Ferth of Clyde, England. W.J. was stationed in England until June 12, 1944, when his unit convoyed across the English Channel to France and their post in an apple orchard two miles inside the beach at Normandy. There, W.J. and his unit cared for the wounded until the Germans were pushed back.

He was at Bastogne, Belgium, just outside the Battle of the Bulge, then onto Germany until the war ended. W.J. was sent to Nuremberg to disarm the Germans and then to Le Havre France where W.J. recalled the soldiers being paid $32 by the French government.

After returning to the U.S. aboard the Queen Mary, W.J. was discharged October 1945. He caught a bus to Oklahoma City from El Paso, Texas and reunited with his loving wife and daughter. At the time of his discharge, W.J. was a medical technician administrative sergeant. After joining the reserves, he was promoted to master sergeant.

After the military, W.J. was employed by Continental for a while and spent many winters, when not farming, at Wetmore, Inc., in Tonkawa, where he worked as a tin smith. This continued until 1981 when he retired to hunt, fish, and garden.

W.J. enjoyed many years of fishing with his family and made numerous trips to Colorado to hunt. He and Louise also made many driving trips to Idaho to see family. He enjoyed animals and cared for his bird dogs and pets like family.

W.J was preceded in death by his parents, his beloved wife, brothers, Frank Jacob Burns, Rex Francis Burns, Donald Dee Burns, and a half-brother, Edward Klufa.

He is survived by daughters Jaylyn Ann Burns Hayden and husband Bill, of Bonners Ferry, Idaho, and Gwendolyn Louise Burns, of Ponca City, sisters, Lucylee Lively, of Dallas and RuthAnn Matthiesen, of Bartlesville, two granddaughters, Kimberly Ann Hayden Pluid and husband Robert Dallas Pluid, of Moyie Spring, Idaho, and Kellie Rae Hayden Nelson and husband James Daniel Nelson, of Townsend, Mont.; 10 great-grandchildren, Mark Pluid and wife AndraKay, of Bonners Ferry; Matthew Pluid and wife Shantel, also of Bonners Ferry; Robbie Pluid Zook and husband Jason, of Kennewick, Wash.; Katherine Ann Miller and husband Joey, of Lewiston Id., Emma J., Maggie Louise and Mary Elizabeth Pluid, all of Moyie Springs; Zach Dirks and significant other Chelsea, and Jordan Nelson, both of Townsend, Mont.; and Eli Studer of Spokane Valley, Washington, and great-great-grandchildren Gracie Pluid and Hayden, of Bonners Ferry, Miles and Mason Pluid of Bonners Ferry, Jenna and Lucy Zook of Kennewick, Wash, and Kinsley Dirks, of Townsend Montana.

The family would like to express gratitude to the staff of the Ponca City Nursing Home, and you know who you are, who gave special care and love to him, and also to Charlie and Lola, the unpaid four-legged volunteers who brought him so much joy.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Ponca City Humane Society, and as a tribute to him the family requests an act of kindness to those who are less fortunate, elderly, or disabled.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of WJ Burns, please visit our Tribute Store.

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E. Highway 60
Tonkawa, Oklahoma 74653

Cemetery Details



E. Highway 60
Tonkawa, Oklahoma 74653


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