William Burnett Obituary, Death – Burnett, William After a brief bout with illness, William S. Burnett, age 92, who resided in both Williston, Vermont, and Albany, New York, passed away peacefully on July 19, 2022. Dr. William S. Burnett had a long and fruitful life, despite the fact that the experiences of his early childhood set him on a course that was very different from what he could have anticipated. Bill was born in Burlington, Vermont, but his family later relocated to Liverpool, United Kingdom, so that his father could establish an osteopathy practice there. Bill’s sister also joined them in Liverpool. He enjoyed his childhood in Liverpool, where he lived with his family in a happy apartment located above his father’s medical practice. It was there that his love of learning and his desire to learn more were encouraged, both at home and at the Merchant Taylors’ Boys’ School.
In 1940, as Germany was making further advances into England, he took his mother and sister and boarded a ship to return to the United States, leaving his father behind. Less than thirty-six hours passed from the time that the decision to leave was made until the actual departure. Although he made his home in West Dennis, Massachusetts, from 1940 until 1946, he never lost sight of his ultimate goal of moving back to England. In 1946, they did make a brief return, but by that time, too much had changed, and it was decided that his parents would get a divorce and his mother would move back to Vermont. When presented with the option to remain in England and continue his education there or to return with his mother and sister, he chose the role he felt obligated to play and returned with them to Williston, Vermont, to work on the family farm while also enrolling in classes at the University of Vermont.
Bill earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in German from the University of Vermont in 1952 and a Doctor of Medicine degree in Public Health from the Larner College of Medicine at UVM in 1956. After receiving his degree, he joined the Air Force and was eventually assigned to a medical post in Saudi Arabia. His passion for exploration and wanderlust grew as a result of this. Because he had a strong desire to take in as much information as possible, he put in an application for a residency program at one of the busiest hospitals in Los Angeles at the time and was successful in getting into the program. There, he had the realization that the areas of research and public health were the ones in which he could have the most significant impact.
He then continued his education at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, receiving his Master of Public Health degree in Epidemiology in 1961 and his Doctor of Public Health degree in Epidemiology in 1963. Both degrees are in the field of epidemiology. Dr. Burnett spent the rest of his career working for the New York State Department of Health, ultimately reaching the position of assistant director of the Cancer Control Bureau before retiring. He later revealed that one of the many reasons he loved his job was that it gave him the opportunity to travel the world in order to learn, explore, and increase visibility into patterns of disease in order to identify public epidemics by sharing research at international conferences.
He said that this was one of the many reasons he loved his job. During his retirement, he took many trips throughout Europe, most of which were taken alongside his father and his father’s wife. At other times, he would travel by himself to view a particular style of architecture, to purchase a particular kind of cookware, to listen to a particular orchestra, or simply to see a new place. In his later years, he took guided trips around the world with some of his best friends, visiting places like Russia, Poland, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Tunisia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, and a number of other countries along the way. When a fellow traveler needed assistance, he quietly stepped in to assist, whether it was to act as an interpreter in a faraway hospital or even to go as far as escorting a friend and fellow traveler back to the United States to seek medical attention and then turning right around to return to the rest of the group to continue with the tour.
He enjoyed the excitement of travel and found solace in exploring new places, but when a fellow traveler needed assistance, he quietly stepped in to assist. When Bill moved to Vermont, his primary concern was taking care of the family farm. Since he had first moved to Chery Hill Farm in the 1940s, a lot had changed since that time. Back then, the farm was used in part as an experiment to see what could grow in the soil of Vermont. In the 1970s and 1980s, Bill diversified his business by raising cattle and kept a small herd of Black Angus animals. Even though the neighboring farms were being developed, and even though he was approached about selling the land, his interest was in working to maintain the land for its intended purpose, which was farming and conservation.
This interest persisted even after he was approached about selling the land. In the end, he came to the conclusion that the farmland should be preserved for future generations through a partnership with the Vermont Land Trust. Bill took a great deal of pride in the renovation of the barns on the property, which were completed with the help of an experienced contractor who had become a reliable friend. Bill’s mother, Harriet S. Burnett, his father, Delbert M. Burnett, and his sister, Elizabeth B. Carroll, all passed away before him. Ian M. Carroll, his nephew, lives in Hartford, Connecticut. Gweneth C. Farrell, Alex Farrell, and Acadia Farrell, his niece, grandnephew, and grandniece, live in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.
Uncle Bill is survived by his family. On Friday, September 16, at 10 a.m., there will be a memorial service held at the Williston Federated Church. This will be followed by a private burial in Williston, Vermont. You are welcome to make memorial contributions to the Vermont Land Trust in his honor. Donations can be sent in via the website www.vlt.org. If you would like to contribute, please make checks payable to “Vermont Land Trust,” write “Memory of William S. Burnett” in the memo section of the check, and mail your contribution to Vermont Land Trust at 8 Bailey Avenue, Montpelier, Vermont 06602. To learn more, please go to www.mcloughlinmason.com.