Cover photo for William S. Burnett's Obituary
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William S. Burnett

April 26, 1930 — July 19, 2022

William S. Burnett

Albany-William S. Burnett, 92, of Albany, NY and Williston, VT passed away peacefully July 19th 2022 after a short illness. Dr. William S. Burnett led a long and full life though the events of his early childhood forged a path far from what he might have imagined. Born in Burlington, VT, Bill moved with his parents and sister to Liverpool, U.K. where his father was starting an Osteopathic Practice. He spent his youngest years in Liverpool happily living above his Father’s practice where his thirst for knowledge and love of research was fostered at home and at the Merchant Taylors' Boys' School.  In 1940, with Germany advancing on England, he sailed home to the United States with his mother and sister, leaving his father behind. The span of time between decision to leave and departure was less than 36 hours. From 1940 through 1946 he lived in West Dennis, MA though his vision was always to return to England. In 1946, they did return for a brief time, but too much had changed, and the decision was made that his parents would divorce and his mother return to Vermont. Given the choice to stay and continue his education in England, or return with his mother and sister, he chose the role he felt obliged to, and returned as well to work on the family farm in Williston and enrolled at the University of Vermont.                                                                                  Bill graduated from UVM with a B.A. in German in 1952 and with an M.D. (Public Health) from the Larner College of Medicine at UVM in 1956. After graduation he served as a Doctor in the Air Force, stationed in Saudi Arabia. This furthered his love of travel and wanderlust. Always wanting to absorb as much knowledge as possible he applied to and was accepted into a residency program at what was one of the busiest hospitals at the time, in Los Angeles. It was there that he realized that research and public health were where he could make the greatest impact. He went on to Ann Arbor, MI where he graduated first in 1961 with an M.P.H (Epidemiology) and in 1963 with a Dr. P.H. (Epidemiology) from the University of Michigan.                                                  Dr. Burnett spent the rest of his career working for the State of New York Department of Health, retiring as the Assistant Director, Cancer Control Bureau. He later shared that one of the many reasons he loved his work was the opportunity to travel the world to learn, explore and to increase visibility into patterns of disease to identify public epidemics by sharing research at international conferences. In retirement he traveled frequently, often with his father and his father’s wife throughout Europe. Other times he would travel solo…to see a certain type of architecture, to purchase a certain type of cookware, to listen to a certain orchestra or to simply see someplace new. In his later years he traveled with wonderful friends on guided trips to countries such as Russia, Poland, Turkey, Morocco, Greece, Tunisia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, and others. As much as he loved the adventure of travel and found solace in exploration, when a fellow traveler needed assistance, he quietly stepped in to assist, whether it be to act as interpreter in a faraway hospital or once to go as far as escorting a friend and fellow traveler back to the U.S. to seek medical attention and then turning right around to return to the rest of the group to continue with the tour.                                                    In Vermont, Bill’s focus was on the family farm. Much had changed since he had first moved to Chery Hill Farm in the 1940’s when the farm was used in part to test to see what might grow in Vermont soil. Bill expanded into cattle maintaining a small herd of Black Angus in the 70’s and 80’s. Even as the neighboring farms were being developed, and he was approached about selling the land, his interest was in working to maintain the land for its intended purpose, farming, and conservation. Ultimately, he made the decision to place the farmland into conservation, in perpetuity, with the Vermont Land Trust. Through the craftsmanship of a skilled contractor, who became a trusted friend, Bill took great pride in the renovation of the barns on the property.        Bill was preceded in death by his mother, Harriet S. Burnett; his father, Delbert M. Burnett; and his sister, Elizabeth B. Carroll. Uncle Bill is survived by his nephew Ian M. Carroll of Hartford, CT and his niece and grandnephew and grandniece, Gweneth C., Alex and Acadia Farrell of Uxbridge, MA.                     A memorial service will be held at 10:00 am on Friday September 16th at the Williston Federated Church followed by a private burial in Williston, VT. In his memory, donations may be made to the Vermont Land Trust. Donations may be made online at Checks should be payable to "Vermont Land Trust" and in the memo portion of the check note "Memory of William S. Burnett," and mail to: Vermont Land Trust; 8 Bailey Avenue; Montpelier, VT 06602 Please visit

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Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, September 16, 2022

Starts at 10:00 am (Eastern time)

McLoughlin & Mason Funeral Home

8 109th St, Troy, NY 12182

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