William Robert Burnette

Published 5:19 pm Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Norfolk – William Robert Burnette, CLU, ChFC, age 92, peacefully passed to be with his Lord on February 3rd, 2020 in Norfolk, Virginia at home surrounded by his family.

The Burnette family, while devastated by his loss, proudly celebrates his full life and honor the indelible mark he left on this world. Bill’s cup runneth over in every way that really mattered.  He was a humble, compassionate and generous person who always put his family first. He lived his 92 years with gusto. He spread happiness wherever he went, and his talent for making friends was legendary.

Bill was born in Rocky Mount, NC to the late Alexander Washington Burnette and Jessinee Hawley Burnette.  As a young boy growing up in the golden age of aviation, he discovered flying and launched on a journey that ultimately became a 76-year love affair with aviation. Remarkably, he soloed an airplane at age 14 before he had driven a car and earned his pilots license before his drivers license. He passed that love onto his boys, and the family enjoyed many flying adventures inside and outside the US.

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Bill graduated from Newport News High School and immediately enlisted and served in the Coast Guard during WWII. He then enrolled at the College of William and Mary where he became a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, Class of 1950. He was then commissioned and served in the Air Force Reserve during the Korean conflict. He went on to a rewarding career of over 60 years with the Equitable Life Assurance Society. Bill was inducted into the Equitable Hall of Fame, and he was named an Equitable National Honor Agent.

Bill encouraged his sons in all their entrepreneurial activities and started his second and concurrent career in self storage when the three of them opened their first facility on the Outer Banks in 1999.

Bill was a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd, where he served and retired as Senior Warden. He was a member of Norfolk Yacht and Country Club, the James River Country Club, the Norfolk German Club, and Norfolk Rotary Club.

Bill loved to cruise the Chesapeake Bay with Betsy, his wife of over 50 years, and friends and family. Some of his happiest moments were spent hosting friends and watching sunrises and sunsets at their home on the Outer Banks. Bill played countless rounds of golf in the Southeast US, as well as Bermuda, England and Scotland. Each May he travelled and played golf with a group of friends known as the “Yamoshitas,” which he often called “one of the highlights of my life.”

Bill is survived by his wife Betty Lee (Betsy) Bickford Burnette; his two children and five grandchildren William Robert Burnette, Jr. and Michelle Bieber Burnette (Will and Abigail) and Michael Bickford Burnette and Cathy Canada Burnette (Ellie, Mary Catherine and Anna Grace); his sister-in-law Anne Colonna Rouse Burnette; nephews John Alexander Burnette and Oscar Stone Burnette, Jr; and niece Sarah Burnette Conrad and husband Roger. He is preceded in death by his brothers Alexander Washington Burnette, Jr., Oscar Stone Burnette, Marcus Clifton Burnette, sister Gretchen Hawley Burnette and nephew John Dashiel Rouse.

The family wishes to acknowledge all his caregivers and the wonderful staff at the Dedicated Care Center and Harbors Edge for their exceptional and compassionate care.

A memorial service for friends and family will be held at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 7400 Hampton Blvd, Norfolk on Saturday, February 8 at 1 pm.  Reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Church of the Good Shepherd.  H. D. Oliver Funeral Apts., Norfolk Chapel is handling arrangements.  Online condolences may be made at www.hdoliver.com.