Elaine Burns Little, born Barbara Elaine Burns in Troy, N.Y., on June 29, 1921, to Stanley Livingston Burns Sr. and Christine Regina Bayer Burns, died peacefully January 28, 2018, at her residence in Shelburne, Vt.
She attended public schools in Rutland, Vt., and graduated from Rutland High School in 1939, where she was active in sports and activities, an early master of the slopes at Pico Mountain, and a lover of the trout streams of Rutland County. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 1943; at UVM, Elaine was a member of the Mortar Board women’s honorary society and Pi Beta Phi sorority, as well as a founder of the women’s ski team that practiced by climbing and descending the original Nose Dive trail at Mount Mansfield. Also at UVM, she met the love of her life, George Edward Little Jr. of Burlington. They married on August 3, 1943, as George prepared to deploy to the Pacific Theater in the Army Air Corps. George predeceased her in February 2009.
Elaine worked during the war as secretary to governor Mortimer Robinson Proctor in his Montpelier and Proctor offices, notably scrambling to coordinate Vermont’s VJ Day celebration while the governor and lieutenant governor were returning from out of state. After the war, she and George moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., where she worked at the University of Pittsburgh while George completed graduate studies in offset lithography at Carnegie Tech.
Elaine was a devoted mother to an active family of four children, but she saved time for her church and civic responsibilities. She chaired the state March of Dimes campaign in the early 1960s. She helped lead a group of area women in the later 1960s to transform the drab hallways of the then-Mary Fletcher Hospital by hanging self-matted and -framed prints throughout the hospital, an experience that later inspired her to become one of Chittenden County’s premier tag sale “pickers,” refinishing and selling her better finds. Perhaps her most sustained and passionate volunteer work was as a member of the Burlington Planning Commission in the 1970s, a period when she also helped lead the fight to preserve the historic Bishop’s House on South Williams Street, a fight which (alas) was unsuccessful, as the house was razed and paved for a large parking lot. Elaine also served as a member of the state Water Resources Board and the Burlington Design Review Board.
Elaine perhaps will be best remembered for the devoted and tireless volunteer work and leadership she and George gave on behalf of our community’s less fortunate residents and vital nonprofit groups, including Ethan Allen Homestead, United Way, Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain and the Committee on Temporary Shelter, to name some of their many endeavors. The George & Elaine Little Park (truly a “Little” park), at the corner of Archibald Street and North Winooski Avenue, was dedicated in 1996 to their tireless community service.
Elaine and George spent summers with their children at the family camp at Starr Farm Beach in north Burlington and, later, at the Coates Island cottage they cherished. She and George taught their children to ski, boat, fish, golf, camp and, more importantly, to try to leave the world a better place than they found it. Her spirit, humor, patience and love are a legacy for all of her family and friends.
In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her parents; her grandparents, Frank and Evangeline Drury Bayer and Arthur H. and Evelyn Malvina (Morris) Burns; her stepmother, Barbara W. Burns; her sister, Elizabeth (Betty) Ann Burns Thorsson, and Betty’s husband, Wesley M. Thorsson; her niece, Ann Elizabeth Thorsson Boblenz; by her sister-in-law, Marcella P. (Marcie) Burns); her nephew, John Gilbert Burns; her cousins Frank Bayer Hewes and Barbara Hewes Beveridge; her aunt, Mary Dell Burns; and her cousin Daniel Comstock Lash.
Elaine is survived by her children, James Edward Little; Thomas Arthur Little and his wife, Susan Margaret Keelty Little; William George Little and his wife, Mary A. Roy; and Margaret Elaine Little Cicchetti and her husband, Albert A. (“Bert”) Cicchetti; her grandchildren, Jessica Mead Little, Thomas Bayer Chauncey Little, Carolyn Phelps Little, Julia Marie Cicchetti, Francis George Cicchetti and Lisa Elaine Cicchetti; her great-grandson, Oliver Thomas Crosby; her brother, Stanley Livingston Burns II, MD; and by her nieces and nephews and their families, Christine Burns DiBiasio, Stanley Livingston Burns III, Liz Vogel, Karen Elaine Thorsson Howell and Carla Christine Thorsson Zell. She is also survived by George’s niece, Susan Bates Cottrell, and her children, James Matthew Cottrell, Pamela Mead Cottrell, Anne Lucene Cottrell and Christopher Goodman Cottrell; and by the children of George’s late nephew, Ray Torrence Bates II: Thomas Pattee Bates Brennen and James Harold Bates.
The Little family is deeply grateful for the compassionate and attentive care Elaine received at the Residence at Shelburne Bay and, in particular, at the Haven memory care center.
A service of Thanksgiving and Eucharist will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, February 3, 2018, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, 2 Cherry St., Burlington, VT, after which the family will receive friends there. Interment in the St. Paul’s Cathedral Memorial Garden will be in the spring.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Little Family Fund at ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, 1 College St., Burlington, VT 05401; the Committee on Temporary Shelter, 95 North Ave., Burlington, VT 05401; Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, 228 North Winooski Ave., Burlington, VT 05401; St. Paul’s Cathedral, 2 Cherry St., Burlington, VT 05401; or the charity of one’s choice.
Corbin and Palmer Funeral Home, 9 Pleasant St., Essex Junction, VT, is in charge of arrangements.