Obituary of Maureen Burns (Shannon)

April 29, 2020

Maureen Burns (Shannon), 74, passed away suddenly on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, at Mount Sinai West Hospital in Manhattan, NYC.

Born in Manhattan, Maureen was the second of her parents' five children raised on the Lower East Side. What they lacked in wealth, the siblings more than made up for in love and shenanigans. During Maureen's adolescence, the family moved to New Jersey, and she graduated from St. Joseph's Girls' High School in West New York, NJ, in 1964.

In 1968, she graduated from St. Peter's College in Jersey City, NJ, with her Bachelor of Arts in French Language and Literature. Maureen had worked her way through college at such places as The Singer Company and the Eastman Kodak Company (where all good NYC Burnses spent some portion of their lives employed), and after graduation returned to St. Joe's for a stint teaching French and Religion, and leading the Drama Club.

Adventure soon called, and in the early 1970s Maureen began pursuing her acting career at places like Seattle Rep, Arkansas Rep, and Playhouse on the Square in Memphis, TN, among others, making lifelong friends everywhere she went. In the late '70s she also started doing film and television work. She was featured on an episode of The Jeffersons and in the made-for-TV movie, "A Real American Hero," opposite Brian Dennehy. To her family, Maureen was absolutely the shining star of these productions, and no one can tell us any different.

Returning to NYC permanently in 1981, Maureen became entrenched in many facets of the city's theatre scene, as an actor, playwright, director, student, and teacher, working with innumerable companies and groups that filled her last 39 years with art, friendship, and love.

In the early '90s, Maureen became a member of The Actor's Studio, where her audition was lauded as "setting a bar for future auditions" and "knocking the judges' socks off." The Studio became like another family to her, and she often spoke with immense gratitude for being uplifted and encouraged by so many loving, supportive artists.

Maureen was a creative person who could find inspiration anywhere, with an almost childlike sense of awe for the great and small miracles of this life. Over the years she wrote many poems, songs, and plays, reflecting deep joys and heartaches, always with an underlying message of hope. One of her proudest accomplishments was when the Studio mounted a staged reading of her play THE BIG NOT KNOWING.

Maureen also continued her film work, and among numerous others, appeared in films like Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (with Nicole Kidman and Robert Downey, Jr.); Lifebreath (with Luke Perry); and the critically-acclaimed LGBTQ+ film Parallel Sons, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival.

A champion for breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, Maureen had Bipolar Depressive Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder with Hoarding. She wanted people to know that there is no shame in having these, and that help is available. She even agreed to be featured on a BBC documentary in 2007, called "World of Compulsive Hoarders," to shed light on the disorder, and in hopes that it would help even one person to not feel alone.

Another important achievement for Maureen was her sobriety. Through participating in Alcoholics Anonymous, she remained sober for over 30 years, and encouraged many others to pursue recovery through 12 Step programs.

Maureen's greatest legacy has been the desire to help those who feel lonely, unwanted, struggling, desperate, or unloved. How many people, when being mugged on the streets of NYC, would ask their assailant if he needed help and whip out a card with a number for him to call for addiction assistance? That was our Maureen.

And she didn't stop with people. Her rescue dogs, Sophie, and later Sasha, had been fearful, abused animals that lived out their lives with deep love and care once they came home with her.

This world would be a better place if more people loved the way Maureen did.

Predeceased by her mother, Josephine Cavanaugh Burns; her father, Joseph Burns; and nephews, Christopher Czarnik and David Woolley, Maureen leaves so many to cherish her memory: sister Pat Burns; brother Joe Burns (Cathy); brother Mike Burns (Mary); brother Frank Burns (Loretta); half-sister Kathleen and family; niece and goddaughter Victoria Benn (Jarad) and children Isaiah and Thomas Elijah Davis and Josephine and Willamena Benn; nephew Shawn Burns (Ana) and children Haley (Ethan), Ryan, Tyler, and Lilly; nephew Brian Burns (Elaina) and son Danny; nephew Mike Burns (Kristine) and children Emma and Alex; niece Mary Catherine Sipala (Todd) and children Laela, Caelyn, Ranae, Ling-Li, Lai Chun, and Caden; nephew Mike Burns (Beth) and niece Samone and children; her many cousins, including Andreassens, Duffys, and Murawinskis, and their families; as well as countless colleagues and dear friends.

An in-person memorial is not possible due to social distancing restrictions. Instead of memorial contributions, please do some random acts of kindness and share them to Maureen's Facebook page when you think of it. Let's brighten the world in her honor.

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I grieve for your loss. Maureen was my neighbor and very, very treasured friend.

Posted by: Tony Farrell - New Uork, NY - May 29, 2020

I grieve for your loss. Maureen was my neighbor and very, very treasured friend.

Posted by: Tony Farrell - New York, NY - May 29, 2020

Here it is the 7th of September and I only learned yesterday of Maureen's passing. Such peculiarly isolating times we are living through... and now she will no longer be with us. I will miss her hugely. I first got to know her many years ago when I directed her in a short two character play at The Actors Studio. I cast her together with the divine Will Hare...the two shared such a raw, authentic, and unpredictable talent that it was a lesson to watch them work together. And they both emanated a sweetness of character that made them irresistible. We lost Will many years ago. And I will always remember Maureen as the beam of light that she was.

Posted by: Timothy Doyle - Brooklyn, NY - September 7, 2020

What a joy Maureen was. A smile always immediate or underneath, full of curiosity, with a generous and open heart. A colleague at The Actors Studio, she was always warm and welcoming, and up for an artistic challenge. I had the extreme pleasure of directing her in Don Donnellan's "Those Gallagher Girls" at the Studio, where she worked opposite Nicholas Braun, her bright presence and intuitive instincts adding greatly to the creative process. Hers was a light not easily extinguished, and one that lives on in our fondest of memories.
Heartfelt blessings to her family ...

Posted by: Mary Fassino - New York, NY - September 12, 2020