Ron Burnam


Ron Burnam


Ron Burnam
Ron Burnam

On March 31, 2018, the world lost a wonderfully humble and amazing man. Ron Burnam was a loving husband, tender father, friend and doctor whose generous, loving heart stopped much too soon. Born to Lon Stiver and Nina Louise Burnam on Feb. 23, 1943, in Tucson, AZ, he was the oldest of four kids. He was raised in the small mining town of Hayden, AZ. Young Ron always dreamt of becoming a doctor and persevered even when the townsfolk doubted. He worked hard every summer at the Shell Gas Station in order to have enough money to go to college.

After graduating high school, he studied pre-med at the University of Arizona in Tucson. In his second year, he met nursing student, Judy Nicholas, at a dance in Phoenix. With Ron in Tucson and Judy in Phoenix, they didn’t get to date often, but with his infectious smile, chivalrous and easy manner and fun, irreverent sense of humor, he quickly won her heart.

Ron began medical school at the University of Utah in 1964. He married the love of his life, Judy, in August of 1965, and set up housekeeping in the “lambing sheds” (WWII barracks turned married student housing). Money was tight, so Judy began work as a new RN at the U of U, and Ron joined the U.S. Army to help with expenses. Before leaving Utah, the couple welcomed their first child, Angela Gay, in December of 1967.

Upon graduating, Ron moved his small family to San Francisco, where he began his internship, then residency in Internal Medicine at Letterman General Army Hospital on the Presidio. Here, he gained valuable experience treating soldiers returning from Vietnam. The years on the Presidio found the couple blessed with three more children, Heather Louise, Tiffany Marie and Nicholas Stiver. Juggling a young family and busy schedule, Ron realized time with family would need to be a priority, so bought a small motor home. This began a lifelong love of camping and family trips.

Finally able to afford a home, the family moved to Lucas Valley in Marin County in 1974. Ron completed his Pulmonary Fellowship and made the decision to retire from the Army. The family moved to Montana, where he went into private practice and started the Respiratory Center. As the practice grew, he was joined by associates Thomas Thigpen, Fred Kahn and Jim McMeekin. Judy also came onboard as the office RN. Ron treated his patients with respect and gentle care, and always took extra time to listen to their concerns. He especially admired his rancher patients for their tenacity, work ethic and perseverance, impressed by the hard life many of them endured. (When not dreaming of becoming a doctor, Little Ronny dreamt of being a cowboy, having enjoyed many summers helping on his granddaddy’s ranch in Colorado.)

In the late ’80s, the world seemed to be enjoying a quiet period, so Ron decided to join the Army Reserves to complete his 20 years of service. Though this seemed a good decision at the time, he was ordered to Saudi Arabia in 1990 with the outbreak of the Gulf War. Upon returning he said, “I thought I had signed up for the retirement plan, not the travel plan!” Lt. Col. Ron Burnam retired from the service several years later.

In 2008, Ron retired from private practice, but seeing the long “honey-do” list, went back to work at the Advanced Care Hospital as Director of Respiratory Services in 2009. He fully retired in 2015.

Ron loved generously and actively. He loved his wife, sharing work and home with her. He so loved his kids and was proud of them and the families created. Celebrating their milestones and successes and the time shared with grandkids gave more light and sparkle to his eyes.

He loved Montana. It provided the Burnam family with many years of fun-filled activities: All enjoyed skiing and hiking, but, more than anything, camping — or in more recent years, glamping. For the Burnams, camping was always an adventure, often arriving at the campground late at night and with something broken in the trailer. Nick-named “Mr. Gadget” by family and friends, Ron was never without the proper tools in his cargo pants and would set about rebuilding, even if it was midnight. He was creative and handy.

Ron bought many campers through the years; the last was a 5th wheel trailer that they drove through many states and all over Montana. It got to be a joke that Ron and Judy usually celebrated their anniversaries on a camping trip as they did last August, celebrating their 52nd at Woodbine campground. In addition to camping and fishing, Ron and Judy enjoyed distance running, riding bikes and cross-country skiing for many years with the Yellowstone Rim Runners.

He loved serving others. In 2013 and 2015, Ron and Judy traveled to Tanzania, Africa, with Judy’s sister, Jeanne, and brother-in-law, Denny, and a missionary health team from Florence. Though busy and tiring, he thoroughly enjoyed these experiences and the opportunity to care for people in such dire need.

Ron epitomized “Love thy neighbor” and put it into practice as committee member and then Moderator of First Congregational Church.

He loved music, joining Judy in singing in the church choir and later the Billings Symphony Chorale. He enjoyed the music created, the camaraderie and the opportunity to wear bow ties.

He loved his dog, Kibeau, training and walking her regularly. Their walks took longer than anticipated as he always took time to visit with others along the way; he loved connecting.

Whether in bow ties or cargo pants, Ron was a loving family man, friend and physician. That’s who he was and will be so very missed.

Ron was predeceased by his brother, Jerry. He is survived by his wife, Judy; their four children, Angie (Chris), Heather (Joe), Tiffany (Edgar) and Nick (Jolene); nine grandchildren, Ryan, Ashley, Thomas, Jackson, Kayla, Parker, Neal, Annalise and Ronin; and sisters, Lynette and Cathy (Jeff).

The celebration of Ron’s life will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, April 14, at First Congregational Church, 310 N. 27th St., with reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to First Congregational Church, Billings Symphony Chorale or the charity of your choice.

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24 thoughts on “Ron Burnam”

  1. Dear Judy and family,

    We are so sorry for the loss of sweet Ron. He was a gentle soul and had the best sense of humor. Please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers. Blessings to all of you.
    Rev David and Kathy Munson

  2. Phil and Jolene McGimpsey

    Judy (and family): Just know that our thoughts, prayers and memories are with you. RIP Doc Ron.

  3. The world has most definitely lost an amazing man with the passing of Dr. Burnam. His smile was so infectious! I loved running into him and Judy over the years! His care and compassion as he treated his patients was like no other! He treated my father and helped my family through one of the most difficult times as we had to say good to my father. You would think that that would be the end but no…a couple months after my father passed away, Ron wrote my mother an amazing letter and to this day I remember his kind words and the comfort he gave to my family! Rest in peace Ron! May memories of Ron and the love of family surround you all and give you strength in the days ahead. Thinking of you and wishing you peace and comfort!

  4. Judy and family, We were deeply saddened when we heard the news. He was such a joy to work with! He always brought a smile to my face when he came into the office. He was a very humble and down to earth soul. He will be missed. We will not be able to attend the funeral as we will be out of town. We are praying for comfort and peace for all of you. In deepest sympathy, Connie and Gary Marman

  5. Ron was an exceptional person. His love of people and serving others shown in everything he did. He will be sorely missed. His presence in Tanzania was a true blessing to all he served. Judy, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time. We know Ron is telling his jokes to the Lord and being loved in return. Take care.

    John and Liz Daly

  6. Laura Burnam Johnson

    Ron was my cousin. Though I had not seen him since I was a child, I kept up with him and his family through our Facebook friendship. He was indeed an amazing person and will be missed by all of his family. My prayers go out to all of you during this time of sadness.

  7. Mis más sentido pésame querida Tiffany y familia. Qué linda historia sobre tu papá, indudablemente fue un padre ejemplar.
    Muchos abrazos,

  8. So sorry for your loss Judy and family. I worked with Dr. Ron at Advanced Care. He was an incredible caring physician and man. He will be truely missed.
    Dee Franzel

  9. Michelle Buffington

    So sorry for your loss and a great losss to the pulmonary family. Such a pleasure working with this man, great sense of humor, teacher and activist for all RTS. Rest In Peace my friend and thank you for sharing your light and helping me be te RT I am today. Much love.

  10. Liz and I are very saddened at the news of Ron’s passing and send our deep condolences to Judy and the whole family. We remember Ron with much fondness since the time we were involved with the Billings Symphony and Chorale. Ron was also very generous in giving his time to record many of the concerts. Ron will be missed by so many. May his memory be for blessing.

  11. A wonderful and kind doctor, colleague, and human being. I was always greeted with a genuine hello and a smile. To Judy and family, I am so sorry for your loss of a joyous man. I pray that God gives you peace and grace during this very sad time.
    Joan Brewer

  12. My prayers go out to the family, he was a wonderful Dr.,father,loving person, god be you. Will be missed.

  13. Judy my heart breaks for you!! You and Dr. B were soul mates!! Loved working at the Respiatory Center. Judy you are strong you and your family is in my thoughts and prayers!!
    Jeanne Meyer

  14. I’m so very sad to hear of Ron’s passing. My sympathies to you Judy and your family. I’m remembering Ron with great joy for your Rimrunner Halloween parties. What amazing costumes you two always had! And your beautiful home by Huntley that you generously shared. Ron was such a gem. He will be missed by so many. Cherish your memories. May God bless you all with his love and peace.

  15. Julie & Rolf Armstrong

    We are so sorry for your loss and will remember Ron with fond memories (laying brick at Nick’s house, BBQing during his trips to Oregon, his infectious laugh). Hold your memories close to your heart and know that Ron is never far way! With love…

  16. Judy, prayers are with you and the family. Jeanne has kept me up to date – and as one cellist to another, may Ron’s “song” always resound in your heart right next to Jesus’. Much love to you,
    Martha Ilgenfritz, Hamilton, MT

  17. I was fortunate to work with Ron at Advanced Care as my Medical Director. I was fortunate to be able to travel with him often and we quickly developed a valued friendship. I quickly moved him to the top of my best physicians ever list. He was greatly valued as a co-worker, physician, mentor and friend. Great people often leave this earth too soon. Judy and family, my most sincere condolences to you as I share in your grief.

  18. Judy and family, If you remember, I had the distinct pleasure of delivering mail to Ron’s office in the Yellowstone Medical Arts Bldg, in the 1980’s, for about ten years. Ron or Judy always had a friendly ‘hello’ and a short conversation for anyone who popped into the office. That is the single standard of Ron’s life, as I remember it – “Friendly, kind and always concerned.” He will be missed by many people…

  19. Sarah (the German daughter)

    Ron (Dad) had been the best father one could imagine! I had the great luck to have him as a host father as a young German girl. Even it was only for one year he had become one of the most important persons in regards of the way of living: loving, caring and seeing the beauty in every human-beeing, no matter what colour of skin or cultural background and the beauty of every single detail in nature. He gave me a lot on the way to live my life like no other father could have done better. Thanks Dad for always!
    your German daughter Sarah
    + her German mother Ingrid and German friend Sonja who had the incredible luck to meet you in 2008 in Germany

  20. Carole Baisch

    Nick, I was your Kindergarten teacher at Arrowhead, and was saddened when I saw your Dad’s obituary. I’m truly sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family will give each other strength to get through this sorrow. Keep all the wonderful memories of your father in your heart. I’ll be praying for you.

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