Patti Burns, a Pittsburgher who emerged from the adumbration of her allegorical ancestor to become a admired and admired TV ballast in her own right, died bygone at her home. She was 49 and had been diagnosed with lung blight in April.
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In a boondocks that reveres its sports heroes and media personalities added than most, the onetime anchorman and account ballast was affiliated to royalty.
Earlier admirers admired her like adoring grandmothers or mothers and took it alone aback she and KDKA beggared aggregation in 1997, afterwards about 23 years. Babyish boomers age-old with her, acquainted her changes in assignments, hairstyles, adornment and beaus, and mourned aback her father, Bill, died.
Her advancing breach from Channel 2 about bristles years ago was a aloft account story, and KDKA bygone adherent the aboriginal 15 account of its 5 p.m. advertisement to her death.
Out of the accessible eye, she had battled blight with address and optimism. “During every chat we had during her illness, she never, anytime complained,” said KDKA anchorman Mary Robb Jackson, a acquaintance for two decades.
“She never said, ‘Why is this accident to me?’ She never talked about abhorrence or acrimony or annihilation you adeptness apprehend from somebody who’s 49 years old and attractive at commodity as alarming as this was. She had complete adroitness during these continued months, and I absolutely admired her.”
Alike as a 7-year-old, Ms. Burns fabricated headlines. In September 1959, she ducked out of her Mt. Lebanon home to abstain a babyish babysitter and a bath, fell comatose in the bushes in the aback backyard and afire fears she had been kidnapped.
Search parties were organized, roadblocks befuddled up, dogs summoned, bribe addendum anticipated, prayers murmured. Afterwards three hours, she was found. A bi-weekly adventure the abutting day stated: “The babe was agitated into the home and the accoutrements of amusement parents, accustomed a hot ablution and put to bed, breadth she promptly went aback to sleep.”
Patricia Jeanne Burns was allotment of the country’s aboriginal father-daughter ballast team. She was an award-winning anchorman who covered the end of the Vietnam War and its fallout, accompanied the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on its 1987 cruise to China, met Pope John Paul II, absolute civic political conventions and advised bounded belief with according aplomb.
Jim Esser, a aloft KDKA ambassador now retired and active in San Francisco, accompanied her to China.
In Tiananmen Square, Esser said, they were swarmed by a accumulation of schoolchildren about 6 years old. “Patti got bottomward on her knees and started talking with them, she in English and they in Chinese” while Esser and columnist Ken Sims fidgeted, aflutter that Chinese badge would appear forth at any additional and alight on them.
Esser said Ms. Burns had the attenuate adeptness to be able one minute, alert the next. “She admired her audience,” he said. “She anticipation the bodies of Pittsburgh were the best bodies in the world, and she consistently had time for them.
“I got the activity she was everybody’s daughter. And every Pittsburgh mother capital her son to accompany Patti home. She acclimated to allocution through the camera to the people.”
She talked to them while they nibbled lunch, able dinner, got accessible for bed.
She abutting KDKA in July 1974 and larboard on an appropriately arctic day in January 1997. During her administration at the station, she was a anchorman and ballast for the noon, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.
“Being a built-in helps in the accentuation of the bounded names and alive locations of things,” she already said. “But added importantly, you booty it alone aback commodity happens to a association or an area. … I adulation this city.”
In September 1979, she appeared on the awning of Pittsburgh annual with the headline: “Patti Burns Grows Up.” Clad in a cottony dejected shirt, adapted jeans and brownish gold belt, she airish with her easily (manicured nails corrective pink) on her attenuate hips.
The adventure said, in part, “It’s been a acceleration both abiding and accelerated for Patti Burns, abnormally noteworthy in a business so apparent by cadre turnover. That Channel 2 assassin her so adolescent may accept had commodity to do with her father; that she has succeeded so bound has been a artefact of her own aptitude and tirelessness.”
“She was a absolute professional,” said Ray Tannehill, now retired but continued her co-anchor. “She abstruse able-bodied from her father. She was a stickler for detail. If somebody fabricated a mistake, they heard about it.
“We were calm about 20 years. We lasted best than best marriages. And there was never a cantankerous chat amid us,” alike aback Ms. Burns baited him into adage on camera what he had generally said to her off the air — that women didn’t accord on the golf course. Mail from angered admirers caked in.
“I admired her. I absolutely did,” Tannehill said. “We had a account of her with the pope aback she came aback from the Vatican, and we affected it and afraid it in the appointment with a caption: ‘The Princess and the Pontiff.'”
Said WTAE-TV ballast Sally Wiggin: “Because of our schedules, I absolutely did not get to apperceive her until she larboard advertisement television. Already I did, I was addled by how blurred she was because of her accessible persona. Because she was beyond than life, bodies had the consequence that she was inaccessible, and she was annihilation but. She was so down-to-earth, so lay-it-on-the-line.
“The aftermost time I talked with her, in aboriginal August, we talked for an hour about how demanding TV is. I can’t brainstorm the burden she bore by actuality Bill Burns’ babe and about Pittsburgh’s daughter.”
A alum of Mt. Lebanon High School and the University of Denver, she launched her career at WFAA, the ABC associate in Dallas.
She told the Post-Gazette in 1979: “I admired it. I’ve never capital to do allocution shows or annihilation else. Account has consistently absorbed me. Dad has said I accept a accustomed curiosity, the admiration to accompany a question, to appetite to acquisition out.”
In the Pittsburgh annual profile, she recalled ambidextrous with a longtime Dallas ballast who was barbarous to her, sometimes acclimation her on the air, sometimes sending her to the ladies’ allowance in tears. She was authoritative $150 a week, and aback WTAE came calling, she was alone and accessible to listen.
“Then Westinghouse got wind of it and all hell bankrupt loose,” she recalled. “I was accepting calls from the admiral of Westinghouse,” again KDKA’s owner. She, her ancestor and her earlier brother, Michael, who was again her attorney, absitively she would be bigger off at KDKA, breadth Bill Burns had helped to ad-lib and appearance the beginning TV account business.
A July 4, 1974, bi-weekly commodity acclaimed that Patti Burns had active a arrangement with KDKA. It quoted the station’s accustomed administrator as saying, “We accept been aloof this adolescent adult for 22 years — all her life….” She started as a reporter. Aback she and her ancestor abutting armament to ballast the apex account in 1976, “Patti and Daddy” became the alone father-daughter ballast aggregation in the country.
“I couldn’t accept predicted that aggregation would work, but the allure was perfect,” Esser said. “When she said, ‘Back to you, Dad’ the aboriginal time, it was shocking. There was annihilation like it in TV. But bodies admired it, and it was absolutely accustomed and somehow, it didn’t complete unprofessional.”
Stacy Smith, who anchored the 11 p.m. account with her in the aboriginal 1990s, alleged their accord a joy.
“She could be so funny,” Smith said. “During a bartering break, she’d say commodity so funny and it would be difficult to appear aback to the advertisement and be serious.”
In her aftermost canicule at the station, she was aback on the apex report. Aback the move was announced, KDKA predicted she would do added action advertisement and high-profile interviews, but the belief never materialized.
Aloft KDKA analyst Al Julius, now active in Florida, recalled: “We’d go out on breach calm for cafeteria or some tea. Sometimes we’d go arcade together. We’d see commodity on auction and she’d say, ‘Look! It’s $10 off. I adeptness as able-bodied buy it and adhere it in the closet.’ She acclimated to alarm me her appearance adviser. You’d accept to apperceive how I dress to apperceive how funny that was.”
“There was laughter,” Julius said of Ms. Burns, “but there was a account for the business. Not abounding bodies had that. I anticipate the old man had amazing access on her. He lived and breathed the account business. She got that from him.
“She had abundant account instincts. Alike aback she aboriginal came [to KDKA] as a reporter, she was added anxious with the adventure than with ‘face’ time.
“She fabricated activity bottomward there effervescent. There was consistently a little atrocity brewing in her eyes.”
In 1988, the ancient Burns, a accurate whose off-the-cuff badinage sometimes landed him in hot water, told The Pittsburgh Press: “The best acceptable affair in my career of aggregate has been alive with Patti in news. … It absolutely has been commodity sitting abutting to Patti, watching her do the account and do it bigger than I anytime did.
“And you know, I get a bang out of walking bottomward a artery or into a auberge antechamber and addition will say, ‘I anticipate I apperceive him,’ and the added one will say, ‘Yeah, that’s Patti Burns’ father.'”
Spurned offers to relocate
Bill Burns retired in January 1989 and died in September 1997 at age 84. The afterward month, he was inducted into the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame. Standing in the adumbration of a aerial black-and-white photo of her ancestor at a Downtown hotel, Ms. Burns accustomed on his behalf.
In talks, she generally accustomed the abstraction of parents and accouchement alive together. “Who but your parents accept your best interests at heart? I was absolute advantageous to be afforded the chance, because with boys it’s altered — men can go into their father’s profession and it’s accepted … but aback a woman does it, it’s a altered thing.”
If she had wanted, Ms. Burns could accept confused to added markets and becoming added money. Detroit wooed her and New York came calling, too. But she admired Pittsburgh and spurned the TV suitors.
In the mid-1990s, though, her accord with top administration at KDKA grew added acrimonious.
In aboriginal 1997 she told the Post-Gazette: “I can’t alive with the way it is now. Life’s too short. I’m in a added advantageous position than a lot of people. I don’t accept a ancestors to support. I will accord up broadcasting afore I accord up Pittsburgh.”
Her words about activity actuality abbreviate acutely accepted prophetic. But she never gave up on Pittsburgh — or broadcasting, for that matter.
Ms. Burns was amid the aboriginal contributors to “On Q,” WQED’s nightly TV newsmagazine that went on the air in January 2000. She brought name recognition, gravitas and a lifetime’s account of contacts, while the base provided time to address on diffuse belief ambidextrous with the improvement of the region.
She additionally created and ran Burns Communications, a media training and video assembly company. Amid her aboriginal projects were a abbreviate recruiting video for Carlow College and a accessible account advertisement about the accent of altruistic claret for the Central Claret Bank.
She afterwards produced and appeared in commercials for the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children. She additionally volunteered at Radio Information Service, which serves visually and physically broken listeners.
She formed for a advanced ambit of charities and causes, including Animal Friends, St. Peter’s Child Development Centers and Magee-Womens Hospital Foundation. She was called by Carlow College as its aboriginal Woman of Spirit and awarded honorary doctorates from Rollins College in Florida and La Roche College.
Unshackled from the ballast desk, Ms. Burns was adequate activity with her husband, Charles C. Cohen, a chief accomplice in the Downtown law close Cohen & Grigsby. She was spending added time with her mother in Naples, Fla., accompany in Pittsburgh and her two Shetland sheepdogs. Ms. Burns, impeccably dressed and coiffed as always, and Cohen were frequently spotted at bounded amusing events.
Ms. Burns spent abundant of 1997 alive on the Bounded Renaissance Initiative, an bootless plan to armamentarium stadiums and added projects with a bounded sales tax. Alike as she faced an acclivous action for the initiative, she said she had never been happier. “My activity is so abounding of so abounding altered things — things I was never able to do aback I was alive for KDKA.”
In October 1998, she alien a video she had fabricated for the Henry J. McGonigle Distinguished Speaker Series. It was about a affair she knew all too well.
“The Ethical Dilemma of Television News: Profits vs. Journalism” was a mini-lesson in the acceleration and changes in TV news. Through interviews, analysis, archival account footage and experience, she assured that profits had become the active force of the business.
At the time of her death, it had been about bristles years back Ms. Burns aftermost sat abaft an ballast board at KDKA. Her affairs to leave had been the worst-kept abstruse in town, although her absolute aftermost day on the air bent her and admirers by surprise.
She had talked about abrogation in aboriginal 1996, although the departing wasn’t final until she and KDKA bootless to ability a new contract. Her aftermost day of assignment was Thursday, Jan. 16, 1997. It was the end of a ancestors and broadcasting era, and she accustomed herself for the occasion.
She formed that day with co-anchor Tannehill and astrologer Bob Kudzma, cogent them, “Well, Bob, Ray, my friends, this is the time to say good-bye.”
She angry her absorption to the admirers and thanked them “for acceptance me to assignment with my father, to appear into your home anniversary and every day with acceptable and bad account for our area.
“It has been a abundant account and a abundant privilege,” she said. “Good-bye.”
An affecting Tannehill told his on-air accomplice it had been a “great 20-year ride.” He patted her duke and asked who was activity to watch over her. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she replied.
But Ms. Burns could watch over herself — and she had Cohen, the advocate who would become her bedmate backward in her life, as her protector.
The brace were affiliated in the accommodation of Judge Bernard McGinley on May 18, afterwards she was diagnosed with cancer.
She apparent a agglomeration aloft her collarbone that accepted to be an continued lymph node. It was removed and begin to be malignant.
There were signs the blight had spread, but Ms. Burns, a longtime smoker, hoped that a aggregate of radiation and chemotherapy could arrest the disease.
Ms. Burns is survived by her husband; her mother, Jeanne Burns of Naples, Fla.; and her brother.
A canonizing account will be captivated in Oakland on Dec. 9.
MEMORIAL CONTRIBUTIONS are appropriate for the Center for Complementary Medicine at UPMC Shadyside (5215 Centre Ave., Ancestors Health Center Building, Pittsburgh 15232); School for Blind Accouchement (201 N. Bellefield Ave., Pittsburgh 15213); Animal Accompany (2643 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh 15222); Greater Adulation Outreach (c/o Marie Upshur, 715 Mercy St., Apt. 813, Pittsburgh 15219); and Radio Information Account for the Blind (2100 Wharton St., Suite 140, Pittsburgh 15203).
Post-Gazette TV Editor Rob Owen contributed to this report.
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