No matter what you thought of Katy Burns, she made you think

Columnist Katy Burns (second from left) and her husband, Don (far right), pose with then-Sen. Joe Biden (third from right) and his wife, Jill (center), in 1977.

Columnist Katy Burns (second from left) and her husband, Don (far right), pose with then-Sen. Joe Biden (third from right) and his wife, Jill (center), in 1977. Courtesy

Former Concord Monitor columnist Katy Burns spent time as John Glenn’s press secretary. They’re shown here in 1974.

Former Concord Monitor columnist Katy Burns spent time as John Glenn’s press secretary. They’re shown here in 1974. Courtesy

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 12-05-2023 10:28 AM

Katy Burns became a staple in the Concord area, served with scrambled eggs and coffee on Sunday mornings for over 20 years.

She had an army of passionate fans, some of whom liked her very much. But Burns often addressed political issues during her two decades writing columns for the Monitor, using wit, humor and a landslide of liberalism to draw the ire of many readers.

Bottom line here: her work was read.

“For many years, her Sunday column was a must-read for a lot of Concord residents,” said Felice Belman, who was Burns’s boss at the Monitor and is now the deputy metro editor at the New York Times. “Some adored her and some loved to hate her, but they never did not read her. They chewed on it all week long.”

Burns, a resident of Bow, died in hospice on Nov. 22, following a long fight against cancer. She was married to Don Burns for 53 years.

Don and Katy often joined Laura Kiernan, another well-known media figure in the Granite State, and her husband, Peter Beeson, for brunch and long, winding, rapid-fire discussions on politics and journalism.

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In fact, the two couples had brunch at Tucker’s restaurant on Oct. 16. Kiernan said Burns looked “weary, but she ate a big breakfast.”

“Politics and journalism were our favorite topics,” Kiernan said. “We were socializing quite a bit. Among many other talents, she was a wonderful gardener. She truly was one of a kind.”

Kiernan and others looked forward to Burns’s annual Christmas party and that landscape of homemade goodies.

“I was lucky enough to be invited and she made amazing food,” Belman said. “I remember that endless table of treats. She spent forever on it. She was so generous with everything.”

Her parties attracted an eclectic bunch. She had respect in certain circles on the right due to what was labeled as her sense of fair play.

“She had her point of view, but she always did it with the facts and fairness,” Kiernan said. “She was confident that she could be respectful. She researched, she knew the facts.”

Not everyone enjoyed her work. Conservatives made up the large portion of that pool. Burns was an unabashed liberal. Readers sometimes dominated the letters section, which was handled by Belman. She called that era of community input the “wild west of letter writing.”

“They got up on Sunday and made a point to read Katy and then they’d spend hours (complaining),” Belman said. “She was thick-skinned, but some of the criticism became personal. Some readers became mean-spirited. It was a moment to me that took some of the fun out of the whole enterprise.”

Burns never backed down. She was shy, but, as former Monitor writer Chase Binder pointed out, “Give her a pen and watch out.”

She kept a high profile in politics, serving as press secretary for John Glenn during his successful bid for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, her birthplace.

She was also a regional press secretary for Jimmy Carter when he was elected president and for George McGovern during his bid for the White House.

And, of course, she wrote, working for 20 years at the Monitor, hired by the late Mike Pride.

“The compensation she got was readership and the satisfaction that she was getting her points out there,” Kiernan said. “She loved doing it.”

Said Belman, “She helped give the Monitor a voice and helped give it a personality.”

Sadly, Burns’s health had taken a downturn recently. Don Burns said his wife died from complications connected to lymphoma and respiratory problems. She retired from the Monitor in January of 2022.

They met in Cleveland, introduced by Don’s friend, who happened to be Katy’s boss at a weekly newspaper there. He said friends have reached out more than he could have imagined.

“I have gotten so many wonderful messages from so many of her friends and readers that I am overwhelmed and so pleased,” Don said. “I was happy she was able to die peacefully in hospice. I miss her so terribly.”