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Schuylkill County Obituaries

Mary Rose Burns – Talented Singer, Musician, Dancer

Mary Rose Burns, Port Carbon, died October 21 at Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest, Allentown, after a short illness.

Born in Pottsville, and a near-lifelong resident of Port Carbon, she was the daughter and only child of the late John D. and Mary F. (Mulhall) Rowland.

Mary Rose was a graduate of St. Stephen’s High School, Port Carbon, Class of 1953, where she was the valedictorian. She was a member of the former St. Stephen Parish, Port Carbon, and St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, Pottsville. Mary Rose was a girlscout, an active member of both St. Stephen and South Schuylkill District CYO young adult groups during the 1950s, where she made many lifelong friends, and was employed by the Pennsylvania National Bank, Pottsville, from 1953-56.

On June 10, 1960, Mary Rose spotted Larry Burns across a crowded room at Hillcrest Hall, and knew he was “the one” (despite being warned off him by well-meaning friends). Mary and Larry became the loves of each other’s lives, culminating in nearly 59 years of marriage.

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Mary Rose was a talented singer, musician and dancer who began performing in her youth as a member of the WPPA Junior Star Review radio show and as a church and event vocalist. After beginning lessons on a physician’s advice, dance became her vocation. Mentored by her teacher, Miss Anna Wilhelm, Mary Rose trained to be a dance instructor at the Pete Conlow School of Dance in Philadelphia and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in New York City and became heir to Miss Wilhelm’s studio. She was “Miss Rowland,” then “Mrs. Burns” to the thousands of dance, gymnastics and vocal students she taught from 1956-1992 – first at the Mortimer and Masonic Hall buildings in Pottsville, then the Port Carbon Community Hall and, finally, the YWCA of Pottsville. She also enjoyed instructing special needs children in gym classes and fielded Special Olympic teams at St. Joseph Center for Special Learning, Pottsville, and choreographed variety shows and musicals at St. Stephen’s School and Nativity BVM High School. Mary Rose was also a founding member of the Schuylkill County Ballet Company.

Despite her busy career, Mary Rose did not neglect her family; she arranged her schedule to allow her to cook daily lunch and dinner, specializing in delicious and bountiful holiday meals. She was the authority on details of family lore and identifying people in old photos. When disability forced her early retirement from dance, Mary Rose’s focus became her beloved grandchildren and her St. Stephen parish community. She nurtured her grandchildren’s talents and was especially proud of their prodigious dance, musical and vocal accomplishments. A devout Catholic, Mary Rose served as church organist, choir director and CCD instructor at St. Stephen’s for over 25 years and was a supply, wedding, and funeral organist for other local churches. Above all, Mary Rose strove to be kind and to put others first throughout her life.

Mary Rose is survived by her husband, Lawrence J. Burns; daughter Mary Margaret Burns; son Lawrence A. Burns; daughter Maureen Challenger and her husband John; son Patrick Burns and his wife Stacie; grandchildren: Joseph (and fiancée Heather), Megan, Jacob, Liam, Lyla, Amy, Jennifer, Jonny, and Candice; great-grandchildren: Kingsley, John-John, Ari, and Grant; her sisterly cousin Kathleen Steranko and close friend Carolyn Corrigan; a niece, nephews, and several dear cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church, Port Carbon, PA at 11AM on Saturday, October 30th, with Rev. Edward B. Connolly officiating.

Relatives and Friends are invited to a viewing on Friday 6-8PM at Robert A. Evans Jr. Funeral Home, Port Carbon and Saturday 9:30-10:30AM at St. Stephen Roman Catholic Church.

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Interment will be held private.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Nativity BVM High School Preservation Society.

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