Robert J. Burns

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  • January 12, 2024
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Bob was born in Mount Carmel and was a standout football player for the Rams of Mount Carmel Catholic High School. He as known for his outstanding speed and was once timed in 9.9 for the 100 – in pads. Following graduation in 1952, Bob moved to Philadelphia and was employed for 14 years by the Sylvan Seal Milk Corporation.

Bob was then diagnosed with MS in 1964 and it eventually confined him to a wheelchair in 1967. His first words to the doctors wee “I don’t have MS, People who have MS are bedridden and they die young, That’s not me.” Interestingly enough, Burns may have been right in listening to his doctors diagnosis. When he finally passed in August of 2013, Bob was 78 years old, not young. He and his loving wife, Rose, fought the dreaded disease for nearly half a century, He refused to become bedridden and would go on to become one of the best swim coaches in the Delaware County region, impacting 1000’s of lives of young people he coached.

In the summer of 1969, Bob was sitting by the pool at the Briarcliffe Swim Club when he was asked to judge diving. After a crash coarse in judging, Bob moved on to become a swimming-diving instructor at Briarcliffe and the Chester YW. It scared him and he thought “how am I going to teach because as he watched other coaches they would actually demonstrate the skill. He became an excellent coach by explaining what he wanted leading to his biggest asset – communication!

Bob’s life was a long, drawn-out sacrifice, but he would always have a smile on his face. It wasn’t just that indefatigable Mount Carmel resolve that made him persevere through his physical challenges. His deep and abiding faith also helped him transcend his limitations. He was described by one of his swimmers as “The Terrible Mr. Burns.”, because he always expected them to give their very best. He got in the water with the kids, using his powerful arms and shoulders to pull him through the water. He became a role model for even though he was intense, he always had a soft spot for those less talented youngsters who gave it their all. He taught people not to underestimate another person’s power or ability because of any limitations

Bob would coach the Briarcliffe Swim Team for 15 years and would record a 52-23 record. He also coached the Chester YWCA Swim Team from 1970-1972 and a best-ever second place finish in the Penn-Del Winter League. He would be remembered for more than wins and losses as he touched the lives of so many young people in the Del-Co area. His philosophy of “every athlete counts regardless of the skill set” and to coach with intensity, but at the same time, give the kids a nod or a smile to let them know that you care about them.

Bob is survived by his loving wife, Rose Marie (nee Bernot) and four children, Bob, Jr (Lori) of Allentown, Kathleen (Paul) Moran of Midlothian, VA, David (Cheryl) of West Chester and Angela of Springfield and four grandchildren.

Categories: 2014 Hall of Fame