Meet Carlton Senior Living spotlight resident, Father Tom Burns – Born in San Francisco on November 22, 1925, to John Joseph (Joe) and Helen Burns, Tom was their firstborn child. Three and a half years later he was followed by his brother William. Joe worked for General Electric and Helen was a homemaker. Seeking warmer weather, the family moved to San Mateo when Tom was a baby. Although Tom and William were not close as youngsters they became great friends in early adulthood which lasted throughout their lives including attending seminary together and becoming priests.
When Tom started school, he loved his kindergarten teacher so much he wanted to repeat the class. The love of school, however, did not last and he found more enjoyment playing tennis and other pursuits. When he came of high school age he attended Bellarmine College Preparatory to which he had to commute by train about an hour each way. Bellarmine, the second oldest Jesuit high school west of the Mississippi River, was founded in 1851 and is one of 59 Jesuit high schools in the U.S. Tom’s academic interest and performance grew here and the hour-long commute each way gave ample time for homework.
After graduation, Tom enlisted in the United States Navy during WWII and served for three years. He was trained as a hospital corpsman which is an enlisted medical specialist of the Navy. He served on the USS Repose which was a Haven-class hospital ship and was among the first ships to be able to receive casualties directly by helicopter. The ship traveled to many locations including Mare Island, Hawaii, Okinawa, and Shanghai. At one point it was caught in a typhoon with waves as high as 75 feet and winds of 150 miles per hour. They managed to regain control by sailing into the eye of the storm then navigating to safety.
After the Navy, Tom returned to Santa Clara University for two years then enrolled at St. Patrick’s Seminary and University in Menlo Park. He was ordained as a priest at St. Mary’s Cathedral in 1954 and served as an assistant pastor in several Bay Area communities. He later served as chaplain at the University of California San Francisco for many years. Later in life, he pursued other vocational interests and worked for St. Anthony’s which has been providing essential support to San Francisco residents living in poverty since 1950.
Father Tom has lived in our Carlton Senior Living Pleasant Hill community for ten years and enjoys it very much. He appreciates the relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff and was even selected at Carlton Senior Living Pleasant Hill’s first ever Harvest King. Tom was an avid tennis player and cyclist but now opts for fitness walking. He has a consistent schedule that includes a morning walk, daily mass, reading-including two newspapers and visiting with friends and ministering to those in need. Tom loves to read mysteries and religious books, enjoys movie classics, westerns and comedies, and listening to classical music.
Honestly, I don’t think you could find a nicer guy. Father Tom is humble, friendly, easy to talk to and has a great sense of humor. He is a wonderful asset to our community and a favorite companion among the residents as well as staff members.
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Written by Mary Ann Ashby