Susan (Sperry) Burns, 88, of Manchester NH passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family, on May 7, 2021, in Londonderry NH after a prolonged battle with Alzheimer's Disease. She was born in 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Newbery Medal winning author and illustrator Armstrong Wells Sperry and Margaret (Robertson) Sperry, M.D. of New Canaan CT, later of Hanover NH. Her uncle Paul A. Sperry was the inventor of the original sole of Sperry Topsider shoes.
Sue graduated from Hanover High School in 1950, where she was the head cheerleader, editor of the yearbook, and captain of the varsity field hockey team. She graduated from Pembroke, the women's college at Brown University, in 1954. She majored in art, taking her studio art classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, specializing in fabric design and weaving.
After college she married Bill, her high school sweetheart and love of her life, a marriage that lasted 67 years. His first job was at Brighton High School in Island Pond VT, which introduced her to the Northeast Kingdom, a region of Vermont she came to love. Their daughter, Margo, was born while they lived there. For a few years they lived on Cape Cod, when their son Stephen was born, but the family soon returned to Vermont when Bill became the principal of Derby Academy. In 1967, they moved again, this time to Manchester NH when he became principal of Central High School, and she was affectionately known as "Mrs. Burns." Her family continued to summer at the one-room schoolhouse she loved so much in Morgan Center VT.
Susan was a prolific potter, taking classes in Sherbrooke, Canada, and at the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences (now the New England College Institute of Art and Design), selling her hand-thrown mugs and bowls. Ever interested in beautiful things, when her attention turned to antiques, she started her own company, New England Antiquities, specializing in Early American Pressed Glass. The whole family would set up at flea markets and antiques shows with her just about every Sunday until she began renting booth-space at group shops on "antiques alley" in Northwood NH, primarily at the Parker-French Antique Center. Even when Bill retired, she did not. They were a staple at antiques and estate auctions across NH and VT, typically with a pair of reserved seats up front, where Sue never so much as dropped a stitch knitting to bid on all manner of interesting things.
Sue was an avid knitter, learning it at the age of eight from her grandmother. She could knit anywhere while doing just about anything: watching tv, reading, and cheering on the Central High School girls and boys basketball teams in the stands. Her life-long hobby turned more passionate and creative when she learned to spin and dye all kinds of fiber to make her own yarn, designing and knitting exquisite one-of-a-kind sweaters and elaborate shawls. She was an active member of the New Hampshire Knitters and Dyers Guild for many decades. In her antiques business, she began trading in old spinning wheels, not for decorative purposes, but to put them back in working shape for other spinners in search of authentic traditional equipment to use. She traveled to many Sheep and Wool Festivals to sell them, as far away as Maryland, filling her booth with an impressive row of ten to twelve 5-foot-high great wheels, always drawing a crowd when she taught people how to spin with one. There was barely a room in the house that did not have a spinning wheel in it. The one line she never crossed, however, was to own any sheep or alpacas, but she was known for occasionally spinning dog fur. She loved dogs, from Cringle, her St. Bernard in high school, to a half a dozen rescues over the years, including golden retriever, Noah.
Susan was predeceased by her parents and her younger brother, John A. Sperry, of Florida. She is survived by her husband William A. Burns, her children, Margo Burns of Manchester NH, and Stephen H. Burns and his wife, Debra (Stevens) Burns of York ME, her two granddaughters, Cassie Burns of ME and Courtney Burns of New Zealand, and nine nieces and nephews: Cynthia (Burns) Martin of NH, Andrew R. Burns of OH, James B. Walk of AZ, William A. Walk of MD, Robert D. Walk of VA, Susan (Sperry) Koopman of MA, John A. Sperry Jr. of Australia, Scott Sperry, and Kristen (Sperry) Burns of CO.
The Burns family is grateful beyond words to the nurses and staff at the Rose Lane memory unit at All-American Assisted Living in Londonderry who cared for her in her difficult final years, and to the Brookhaven Hospice team at the end of her life.
Calling hours, with masks and strict social distancing, will be on Friday, May 21, from 4 to 7 at Lambert Funeral Home, 1799 Elm St., corner of North St., Manchester, NH. All other services will be private. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory would be appreciated to the Animal Rescue League of New Hampshire in Bedford NH, the Old Stone House Museum in Brownington VT, the Senior Program at Easter Seals New Hampshire in Manchester NH, or the Alzheimer's Association.