Obituary of William Burnett
William C. "Bill" Burnett, of Slingerlands, a Finger Lakes boy, Cornell man, civil engineer, race car hobbyist and all-around fix-it guy, died Friday morning Oct. 26, 2018, at Albany Medical Center. He was 88.
He was born in the Schuyler County village of Burdett to Chester and Marguerite Burnett. His father was a postmaster and his mother a school teacher. Bill's love of vehicles and speed started early, secretly skipping out of the house with a pal to fly down snow-covered Tug Hollow Road on a sled. His love of racing began when he attended the initial Grand Prix in Watkins Glen in 1948.
He graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's and a master's degree in civil engineering. Along the way, he met Nancy Milliman on a blind date set up by his sister, June. Bill and Nancy were married in 1954 and had three children. He built a career at the NYS Department of Transportation, eventually become director of its research bureau and serving on the National Highway Research Board. In 1967, he won a national award for outstanding research that led to improvements on highway safety barriers. In 2000, the national board honored him with the Kenneth A. Stonex Roadside Safety Award for lifetime contributions to highway safety.
In retirement, Bill and Nancy enjoyed summers in the Finger Lakes and winters in Ft. Meyers, Fla. Always an avid fan of auto racing, he began driving his Porsche sports car on the Watkins Glen International Speedway when it was open at certain times to amateurs – continuing well into his 80s. He participated in sports-car club weekends in Watkins Glen. He and Nancy also traveled extensively, especially enjoying Smithsonian tours in the U.S. He once journeyed to England and Scotland to research family roots. He liked corny puns, W.C. Fields' movies, Scottish pipe bands, flying his kites, and double servings of ice cream. He enjoyed reading history, especially about aviation and the Civil War. He sang old vaudeville songs to his young children on long car trips. He was a member of the American Legion (having served in ROTC and Army Reserves), Acacia college fraternity, the Slingerlands United Methodist Church and the Porsche Club of America.
He is survived by his children, Carol "Cas" Bezanson (Tim Corder) of Tucson, Ariz., Bob Burnett (Sue Griffin Burnett) of Slingerlands, and Tom Burnett of West Sand Lake; and grandsons, Mike and Mark Burnett of Slingerlands. He was predeceased by his wife Nancy, who passed away in 2009.
Calling hours will be Tuesday, Oct. 30th from 4 to 7 pm at Applebee Funeral Home, 403 Kenwood Ave., Delmar. Graveside services will be 1 pm Wednesday, Oct. 31st at Hector Presbyterian Cemetery, Hector, NY. Those who wish may make a donation in Bill's name to the American Red Cross. God speed, Bill. Now you can have your keys back.