Santa Paula Times

Grand Marshal Jerry Burns to lead Optimist Christmas Parade

November 11, 2009
Santa Paula News

He’s known as a tireless volunteer and a generous contributor to a variety of Santa Paula causes, and now Jerry Burns is being recognized as the grand marshal of the 60th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesHe’s known as a tireless volunteer and a generous contributor to a variety of Santa Paula causes, and now Jerry Burns is being recognized as the grand marshal of the 60th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade. The parade will be held November 28 on East Main Street, stepping out on 7th Street at 10 a.m.Christmas Parade Coordinator Ron Merson said Jerry is the obvious choice to lead this year’s procession. “If you ever happen to go to the Little League Richard Ruiz Field, you will notice a sponsor banner that says ‘Who’s Jerry?’ I would say that there are hundreds of youngsters and just as many adults who can answer that question,” as Jerry has been active in the community both as an educator, involved Kiwanian, and - although a Thousand Oaks resident - a strong community booster.Now retired, Burns served as the Santa Paula Elementary School District’s speech therapist for 28 years at five campuses. “Jerry is an exceptional and generous human being” whose heart, said Merson, “is dedicated to all the youngsters of Santa Paula.”Burns, who said his working career has been in Santa Paula, told the graduates at the SPHS Senior Night they would be making money in the future, and “Remember, give back to the community.” A native of Ventura, Burns believes in “giving back to the community, and I have for a long, long time in various ways.”According to Merson, Jerry’s résumé of caring includes personally sponsoring a district-wide art contest and providing the trophies for the top three winners in every grade level, and sponsored the annual Barbara Webster School Marble Contest, where he also makes sure the sandboxes are filled annually. For many years he organized field day activities, now called Burn Out Day in his honor, and he has donated hundreds of books to several school libraries.Jerry also was a popular Santa Claus for generations of children. He still sponsors up to a dozen Santa Paula High School football players each season; purchases up to five pigs from Santa Paula kids at the Ventura County Fair Auction; volunteers his time to announce all the Varsity basketball games as well as most of the Junior Varsity games; and he purchased the official scorers’ table for the teams.
When SPHS seniors used to stage a post graduation party, Jerry would volunteer as the black jack dealer. He has announced football games as needed, he sponsors a scholarship for speech students at SPUHS, and when teams have gone to the CIF, “Jerry has been known to appear at away games with drinks and snacks for the kids,” Merson said.And the list goes on: Jerry sponsors up to four Little League and Girls Softball teams, he donated the yellow chain-link safety padding at the LL Fields, and he has helped fund many students so they can explore American history on the Isbell Washington, D.C. History Trip. Last but not least, Jerry also donates school supplies to teachers.“Talk’s cheap, put up,” said Burns. “I try to volunteer doing various things in the community as much as I can... I’m just an average person who tries to do the best I can, it’s become a part of me” and, he noted, “all my extra times is spent in Santa Paula, all of it.”Merson said many children refer to Jerry as Mr. Quemado: “It means burnt,” said Burns. “Burns is not translated into Spanish. I do remember, with my crummy Spanish,” burnt seemed to fit. “I think my Spanish has gotten better over the years,” although, noted Burns, “not much!”Merson said children throughout Santa Paula and West Ventura County cities as well as in Calabasas, where he also worked part-time, recognize Jerry. And, said Burns, “Some are kids I had that are now in their 40s” who still greet him as Mr. Quemado.Almost anywhere he goes, “Jerry will more than likely be greeted by children, teens, young adults and even older folks whose life he has touched. He is a genuine ‘Card’ through and through... I believe,” noted Merson, “that Jerry exemplifies the Optimist motto, ‘Bringing Out the Best in Kids!’”Overall, said Burns, “I’m very honored to be selected as the grand marshal of the Christmas Parade!”