On Sunday, August 2, at about 8:30 pm I looked at my phone, and saw a text message from Jeff. It was sent three hours earlier: “I’m at Walter Reed and will be passing in the next day or so. I’ll try to give you a call later if I’m feeling stronger”. I texted back “What happened? Anything we can do, just let me know. Love you, man.” The reply was “Kickstands up.” About an hour later, this reply “Thank you, Blair. This is Jeff’s son, Dennis. Dad has passed, his last message sent to you. We relayed your response and he understood. Thank you for your friendship with Dad, and please share the sad news with the rest of the Norton club.” I wish I would have looked at my phone a couple of hours earlier so I could have had a little more time to spend with him in his final hours. But it seemed he knew the end was near and accepted it.
I first met Jeff and Patsy at a NCNO meeting, I believe in 1985. Jeff had a 750 Interstate that he bought while he was still in the Navy, back in the ‘70s. New to the club, Jeff and Patsy were part of our group at the infamous 1985 National Rally in Ohio, and they fit right in with our curious band of—how does Burt put it—”misfits, kooks and weirdos”.
Jeff and Patsy helped out many club members, including “Snowy” Whitten, the crazy Australian, and many others. Jeff was a tax expert, and helped some members with their taxes—preparing them or giving sound advice when asked. They always helped out at club events, with Patsy doing the T-shirt sales and Jeff as club Treasurer for many years.
Their house was open to us for many meetings, Christmas parties, Crab Feasts, National Rally meetings, Classic Motorcycle Day meetings, and as a Rolling Thunder drop-off point for camping gear.
Jeff and I rode together to several RT Rallys and club rides. I remember one year he was just behind me at the top of Mt. Weather and I saw him go off the road in my mirror. I turned around and went back and he was still upright, but damaged a muffler. A slight excursion into the weeds after taking the turn too hot. A little shook up, we continued and caught up to the group.
I met my wife, Carmen, through Jeff and Patsy. Carmen worked at the liquor store where Jeff and Patsy had a check-cashing business. We dated for a while and were married in 1991, Jeff and Chris Greenbacker were ushers at the wedding.
Jeff always helped me out with NCNO technical issues. I would ask him to test out the things I was working on, and we would work out the kinks to get it ready for release. With his help, NCNO has PayPal, online voting, RT online registration, and Facebook administration.
Jeff will be missed by us in Nation’s Capital Norton Owners. We are a better club because of Jeff and Patsy, and we can look back and remember all the good times we had (when we were all in our 30s and 40s). It was sad to see Jeff’s health go downhill these past few years, but he was a NCNOer til the end. Godspeed, Jeff and thanks for the friendship.
—Blair Chapman NCNO Flyer August 2020
Obituary for Jeff Burns
A celebration of Jeff’s life and burial in Arlington National Cemetery took place in January 2022. View the obit at Storke Funeral Home