Doris Burnett

POCATELLO-Susie Doris (“Dorie”) McDermott Burnett passed away peacefully at home in Pocatello, Idaho, with family at her bedside, on March 25, 2012. She was born to Hugh B. and Mildred M. (Trengove) McDermott on August 2, 1916, in Butte, Montana, where her father was a mine safety engineer in charge of training mine rescue teams for the United States Bureau of Mines.

Because her father’s work entailed much travel and occasional relocation, Dorie attended grade school at Webster Elementary School in Butte; middle school at La Conte Junior High School in Hollywood, California (where she watched Charlie Chaplin make the movie “City Lights”); and high school at Wallace High School in Wallace, Idaho. In the spring of 1933, at age 16, she graduated from Wallace High School at the top of her class. She wrote the words of the class songs at each of the schools she attended.

At Wallace High, Dorie met the eventual love of her life, Donald Lee Burnett, whose father also worked in the mining industry and whose work had brought the family to Wallace from Telluride, Colorado. Dorie and Don were co-editors of the Wallace High newspaper, and they appeared on stage in high school theatrical productions.

In the fall of 1933, during the depth of the Great Depression, Dorie and Don enrolled at the University of Idaho at Moscow. Dorie worked her way through school as secretary to the head librarian of the university, starting at a wage of 35 cents per hour. She earned her B.A. degree magna cum laude in economics, with a minor in sociology, in 1937. Don laid out a year to work in the mines, earning an accounting degree in 1938. On November 30, 1939, Don and Dorie were married in Moscow. In 1940 they moved to Pocatello, where Don embarked on his career as a certified public accountant.

The world changed on December 7, 1941. Don, who had been an Army ROTC cadet at the University of Idaho, volunteered for active service the next day. Prior to overseas deployment, he was stationed at Camp Adair in Oregon, where Dorie joined him and served as a nurse in the post auxiliary. When Don was deployed to the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific, Dorie moved to Spokane, Washington, where she lived with her mother and her sister, Ethel Irene, and performed volunteer work as a Red Cross staff assistant, canteen chairperson, and director of surgical dressings. When the war in the Pacific concluded in 1945, Dorie joined Don at Fort Richardson, Alaska. After he received the Legion of Merit and an honorable discharge as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1946, the couple returned to Pocatello, where Don resumed his accounting practice, and they started a family.

On October 1, 1946, Dorie and Don had their first child, Donald Lee Burnett, Jr., and on March 18, 1950, the second of their two children, Howard David Burnett, arrived. While raising the family, Dorie was an active community volunteer. Taking a lead role in the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Pocatello, she made the motion at a meeting in the late 1950s – during the post-Sputnik period of improvement and increased rigor in American public education – to establish a curricular track system placing special emphasis on math and science in the schools. For her service to the PTA in many capacities, she received an honorary life membership from the Idaho Congress of Parents and Teachers.

Dorie was active in the First Church of Christ, Scientist; an active supporter of the Idaho State Civic Symphony; and a member of Chapter AK of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, serving in every officer position including President. She later was honored as a 50-year member at the Idaho P.E.O. convention in 2006. She was recognized in 1996 as one of Zonta Club of Pocatello’s Women of Achievement. She also was an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary, serving as the local President during America’s Bicentennial and again from 2001 to 2006. She especially focused her energies on the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls’ State program and on fundraising events and services for local veterans.

While her sons were growing up, Dorie served as a Cub Scout den mother for eight years, and assisted Don Sr. in guiding the Bannock Boys’ Baseball program when he was the city-wide Commissioner. She enjoyed (and endured) the family hobbies of hunting, training retriever dogs for field trials, and other Idaho outdoor activities. She was active in her bridge club, and in cooking and recipe-sharing groups (indeed, her signature poppy seed cakes have graced the palates of countless grateful recipients throughout Pocatello and beyond). She was a member of the former University Racquet Club, where she swam almost daily during the summer months. On each of her birthdays, she swam as many lengths of the pool as the number of her years – up to and including age 90!

Over the course of the last six decades, she proved repeatedly to each of her boys – and then, in turn, to each of her grandchildren – that no school activity, athletic competition or community event in which they were involved could ever be so inconsequential that she would not find a way to be present as an enthusiastic audience member.

Dorie was predeceased by a younger brother, Richard Edward McDermott (who died in infancy), by her mother and father, and by her husband Don. Dorie is survived by her sons, Don Burnett Jr. (Karen) of Moscow and Howard Burnett (Carol) of Pocatello; by her five grandchildren, Jason Andrew Burnett (Rhonda) of St. Louis (who as a toddler called his grandmother “Gombie,” thereby creating the nickname by which she became known to family and friends), David Wesley Burnett of New York City, Elizabeth Elston Burnett of San Francisco, Caroline Lee Burnett of Chicago, and Jacqueline Ann Burnett of Chicago; and by her great-grandchild, Chase Levi Burnett (who was born at St. Louis in December, 2011, and was brought to Pocatello in early March by parents Jason and Rhonda in time for Dorie to meet and embrace him). In addition, Dorie is survived by her sister, Ethel Irene (McDermott) Lovewell, nieces Marylynn Lovewell and Susan Lovewell Abrahams, and great-niece Sara Abrahams, all of southern California; by her first cousins Mary Evelyn Semmens of Butte and Mildred Brown of Bellingham, Washington (and their respective family members); and by her niece Anne Gaffney of Pocatello.

At Dorie’s specific direction, there will be no funeral service. Condolences and remembrances may be shared at In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to consider a memorial contribution to the Donald (Sr.) and Doris Burnett Undergraduate Access Scholarship Fund at the University of Idaho (c/o University of Idaho Foundation, P.O. Box 443147, Moscow, Idaho 83844), or to another philanthropy of choice. The family wishes to express appreciation to the dedicated team members of Creekside Home Health & Hospice, who provided tender assistance to Dorie during her final days.

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  1. Debbie Green

    To the Burnett family, I just wanted you to know my thoughts and prayers are with you during this time. You are lucky to have such a great mom. Remember the good times…..and treasure her love that is still with you.

  2. Randall Fowler, MD

    Dear Howard and Carol:

    Just a short note to express my condolences to your family on Dorie’s death. Although I only knew her briefly, I was impressed by her infectious enthusiasm and grace. Surely she will be missed by all those she touched during her life. I only regret not meeting her earlier myself. Please let me know if I could be of any assistance to you or your family during this time, so you can concentrate on sharing all those awesome memories of Dorie you must have.

    You’re in our thoughts and prayers,
    Randy & Keri Fowler

  3. Steve Merrill

    I was lucky to have known Doris and a few family members several years ago. I hope you all are doing well and I’m sure you all have great memories of her. I will always remember her smile, even in adversity, she was always pleasant to be around.

  4. Jeff Oesterling

    Your Mom was always one of my favorite people. I would see her about twice a year and she always had news for me about something. In the spring it was the Kentucky Derby and in the fall it was about her previous summer trips. And always the grandkids. She was a pleasure to work for. Our sympathies for your loss.

  5. Charles Johnson

    Dear Howard and Dean Don,

    Please accept my condolences on the death of your mother. I am sure you miss her. She had a very good life and certainly raised to good sons.

    Charles Johnson
    Attorney, Pocatello Idaho

  6. Bill Phillips

    Dear Don and Howard,

    Your mother touched so many people during her long life. She was a best friend to my mother and the nicest, funniest adult I knew during my childhood. I have sent her obituary to my brothers and sisters. It is a fascinating read for anyone who knew Dorie. Thank you for preparing it, and my deepest condolences for your loss. Best wishes, Bill Phillips, Moscow, Idaho.

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