John Cotton Burton
Burton, John Cotton 1923-2014 John Cotton Burton of Deephaven, Minnesota died on Friday, December 5, 2014. He lived on Carsons Bay, Lake Minnetonka, where he spent most of his 91 years on land first settled by his grandfather, Hazen Burton, in the 1880's. A lifelong athlete, John sailed, fished, skated and played hockey on the lake and played tennis and cross-country skied on its shores from early childhood. At The Blake School and later at Harvard College, John excelled at tennis and hockey; at Harvard he won the freshman class tennis championship and as a senior he won the John Tudor Memorial Cup, the prize given to the most valuable player of the hockey team. Commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy after college, John served on landing ships in North Africa and Italy. After the war, he earned a law degree at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1948. At a Christmas dance that same year, Janette Johnston of St. Paul spotted John across the dance floor. Six months later they wed. While their courtship was a whirlwind, their devotion to each other lasted the rest of their lives. In Deephaven they raised their five children, introducing the next generation -- and the one that followed -- to sports and wildlife around the lake. John took great pleasure in following his children and grandchildren as they enjoyed the sports and activities he loved: his son Tom sailing A and E scows, his son Mark competing in collegiate hockey and tennis tournaments, his daughter Sarah skiing on his favorite nordic trails, his daughter Lisa skiing in the Sierras, and his daughter Mary bird-watching. Later he relished watching his grandchildren compete in sailing, hockey, skiing (both nordic and downhill), running -- even football, rugby and mountain biking, sports he did not pursue. John's own athletic activities continued long after his school days ended. Through his nordic ski racing during and after law school, John earned a place on the U.S. Nordic Ski Team and participated in the Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway in 1952. Fifty-seven years later, he traveled with his son Mark to Maine for the first reunion of his team since Oslo. While continuing to ski competitively and sail with the Minnetonka Yacht Club, John took up running in his middle years, completing 53 marathons after age 50, including two Boston Marathons. In his 60's, he took up competitive in-line skating. Modest despite his many victories, he was quick to compliment his rivals, often displaying more interest in their times and triumphs than in his own. John's humility and genuine interest in others made him a beloved figure in masters racing. He remembered every race -- and kept detailed notebooks to back up his recollections -- but his reminiscences would invariably focus more on the achievements and sportsmanship of others. John ran his last marathon, his 17th Twin Cities Marathon, in 2001 at age 78, but contracted shingles, the lingering effects of which brought his athletic career to an end. A master of many sports, John also worked as a banker, a stockbroker and a lawyer, but most enjoyed teaching. John taught English and coached hockey and tennis at The Blake School in the fifties, where many of those he taught and coached became friends, their grammar and stick-handling improved by his tutelage. With Janette, he taught cross-country skiing in the seventies and eighties, helping many learn to love the sport. After the death of his father, Ward Cotton Burton, John concentrated on managing the family property. From John and Janette's home on Carsons Bay, he continued to sail, ski and run as long as he could. He was devoted to Janette and helped care for her through her last illness, aided by many of the same loving caregivers who later cared for John in his last years. Born in Minneapolis on March 12, 1923, the son of Ward Cotton Burton and Ella Lindley Burton, John was preceded in death by his parents, his beloved wife, Janette Johnston Burton (1926-2006), his brothers, Gale Cotton Burton and Lindley James Burton, and his sisters Whitney B. Movius and Elinor B. Cammann. John is survived by his sister Hazel B. Gray; his five children, Mary Lindley Burton of New York City, Lisa B. Ericson (Bruce) of San Francisco, California, Sarah B. Marshall (Paul) of Deephaven, Thomas Ward Burton (Georgia) of Deephaven, and Mark Harrison Burton (Jean) of Osterville, Massachusetts; his six grandchildren, Elizabeth and Christopher Marshall, Harrison and Charles Burton, and John and Whitney Ericson; and by 14 nieces and nephews; 20 grand-nieces and nephews; and four great-grand-nieces and nephew. Memorial gifts may be sent to: American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, P.O. Box 911, Hayward, WI 54843; Lake Minnetonka Sailing School, 19802 Minnetonka Boulevard, Deephaven, MN 55331; Minnesota Distance Running Association, 5701 Normandale Avenue, Edina, MN 55424; Minnetonka Youth Hockey Association, 18313 Highway 7, Minnetonka, MN 55345. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on December 27, 2014, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis. Private burial.
Published on December 14, 2014
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