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Brasher mourns loss of first female town board member

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BRASHER FALLS - The first female to serve on the Brasher Town Board died on Saturday.

Margaret M. Burns, 64, was getting set to begin her third term as a board member. She had originally been elected in 2005, garnering the most votes among three candidates that year, and was also the top vote-getter among two candidates when she ran for reelection in 2009. She and Councilman William D. Demo are running unopposed in today’s election.

“She was the first woman elected to the Brasher Town Board since the founding of the town on June 6, 1825. She was finishing up her eighth year, her second term. She was very popular. She earned it,” Town Supervisor M. James Dawson said.

Mrs. Burns was also the first female interior firefighter for the Helena Fire Department and, according to her obituary, the first in St. Lawrence County.

“The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to the Helena Fire Department would be Frank (her husband) and Margaret Burns. She was the first interior woman firefighter that Helena ever had,” First Assistant Chief Kevin Durant said.

In addition to going on calls, Mrs. Burns was the department’s treasurer and a member of the department’s auxiliary, according to Mr. Durant.

“She’s probably one of the nicest persons I think I ever ran into. She always had a smile on her face. She loved her grandkids. She loved the fire service. She was pretty much a staple in the town of Brasher when you come into Helena,” he said. “She was a trooper.”

Mrs. Burns also served on the St. Lawrence Central Board of Education and LBSH Board of Directors and was a member of the Democratic Club and Tri-Town Trailblazers Snowmobile Club.

“She was an excellent board member,” said Allen W. Fukes, who served with Mrs. Burns on the LBSH Board of Directors. “She was devoted to it.”

Mrs. Burns retired in June 2012 after 28 years as a customer service representative at the W.B. Goodnow Agency in Winthrop. But she remained committed to the town board and Helena Fire Department.

Mr. Dawson said Mrs. Burns and her husband, Frank, whom she married 44 years ago, had started a first responder service because of the town’s distance from other rescue squads.

“She had been getting up at midnight, during a hailstorm, on Christmas Day or doomsday and going wherever she needed to go with Frank to help people who needed emergency medical treatment right now until the ambulance got there. She did that for years and years and years,” he said.

And she did it with a smile, according to the town supervisor.

“She always had that uplifting spirit. She was always bubbly and smiling. She was always very friendly with everybody she met,” he said.

“On the town board, Margaret knew what she wanted. She was opinionated, strong in her beliefs. We didn’t always agree; it was never personal,” Mr. Dawson said. “She was a tough lady.” He said they need to “get through the business at hand first” before deciding how to replace Mrs. Burns on the board.

“We’re going to get through the funeral first. Then we have our budget hearing Thursday evening and we open bids (for the highway garage) Wednesday. We’ll get through the business at hand first and see what happens with the library,” he said, referring to a proposition on the ballot to place a branch library in downtown Brasher Falls.

St. Lawrence County Election Commissioner Jennie H. Bacon said it will be up to the town board members to make an appointment to fill the vacancy. That person will fill the first year of the four-year term and run again in November 2014 to complete the remaining three years, she said.

“It will be up to the town board,” Mr. Dawson said. “We’ll need a majority thereof to appoint (a replacement).”

Calling hours for Mrs. Burns will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Hammill Funeral Home in Winthrop. A Mass of Christian Burial and Celebration of Life will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Patrick Church in Brasher Falls, with burial in St. Patrick Cemetery in Brasher Falls.

Donations can be made to St. Lawrence Central Boy’s Varsity Hockey, Attn: Tim Wagoner, P. O. Box 307, Brasher Falls, NY 13613 or Hospice and Palliative Care of St. Lawrence Valley, Inc., 6805 US Hwy 11, Potsdam, NY 13676.

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