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Virginia Burns

August 17, 1927 - May 18, 2021
Westland, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Virginia Burns (Szmansky) of Westland passed away peacefully at home on Tuesday morning, May 18, 2021 at age 93.

Virginia was born August 17, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Andrew and Mary Szmansky. After moving from a house near the Shipyards to Del Ray, then Belleville, she attended Denton Elementary and graduated from Belleville High in 1945. She married Howard Burns in 1947. Divorced when her son Bob was small, Virginia found work as an executive secretary, and spent over 37 years at Ford Motor Company, typing documents from shorthand with blazing speed.

She was a big sports fan, cheering on her Michigan teams year after year. Her scrapbooks of the 1945 and 1968 Tigers World Series wins were among her most treasured possessions. She was a champion bowler, and loved to crochet, listen to old tapes of her granddaughters singing and the Glenn Miller Orchestra, play solitaire, work on puzzles, and gamble at the casino. She loved her house in Livonia, where she’d rock on her porch and enjoy the breeze or eat tomato sandwiches from the garden.

Virginia was known for her sharp mind, her wit, and her love of socializing. Once she set her mind on something, she would stop at nothing to achieve her goal. To take just one example, she gave up her lifelong smoking habit (cold turkey) at age 89. Her attention to detail and memory were impressive, even in old age. She surprised her family with occasional gems, like singing “Beer! Beer! For Old Belleville High,” one day with great gusto.

She is survived by her “girls,” her granddaughters Jennifer Burns Bright and Joey Nichole LaRue (Burns); their mother, Kathleen Burns Watson and her husband, Ronald Watson; great-grandsons John and Gage LaRue; her sister Maryann Smith (Szmansky); her brother Walter Szmansky, and their families. The family is deeply indebted to Kathleen and Ronald for stepping up to manage Virginia’s care with the diligent, hardworking team at Westhaven Manor, Right at Home, and Grace Hospice in the last months of her life.

Virginia was preceded in death by her beloved son, Joseph Robert Burns of Livonia, who died on November 29, 2018 of a sudden heart attack, and his father, Joseph Howard Burns of Manistee; her parents, Mary and Andrew Szmansky; and her brother Edward Szmansky.

There will be no service, but the family will celebrate her life with coffee and donuts, Virginia’s favorite meal. Virginia has opted for cremation, and will be interred at Michigan Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you encourage your elders to get their COVID vaccinations.