John Harvey Burrows
September 4, 1924 – July 27, 2020
John Harvey Burrows, 95, passed away Monday, July 27, 2020 in Camarillo, California from heart failure due to the COVID-19 virus.
John was born on September 4, 1924 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the son of banker George Burrows and Italian immigrant mother, Vincenza “Rose” D’Ambrosio.
John grew up in an Italian/Jewish immigrant neighborhood and spent his young life running around and playing stickball on the streets with his friends. At 12, his parents divorced, and his father had risen in the ranks of the bank enough to send John away to the prestigious boarding school, Andover. Trouble always seemed to follow John at Andover and after multiple mischievous incidents, he was asked not to return. Instead, John was sent to live with his Aunt and Uncle Cooke in Connecticut where he finally settled into a happy family life. He graduated high school there and was accepted to Yale. At Yale, John was always a bit of a curiosity to those around him. He had his feet in both worlds. Somehow John's good humor and casual ease allowed him to fit in naturally in any environment. In later years, this quality would help him crash many a posh party with his good manners, looks, and a used tuxedo.
In Yale, John studied electronic engineering. He had always been fascinated with radio technology and became an Amateur Radio Operator (callsign W6OGU “W6 Old Gruesome and Ugly” as he would say). He even started his own pirate radio station on the Yale campus using the radiator pipes as his antenna.
John was also a very strong swimmer. He joined Yale’s swim team and swam competitively against a future Olympian. Eventually, as World War II began, the Navy sent recruiters to enlist the best swimmers and divers in the United States for a new and secretive program called the Underwater Demolition Team (UDT). The UDT would eventually grow into the Navy’s SEAL program. Most of the boys on the Yale swim team enlisted for the war including John.
John didn’t find the UDT to his liking, so the Navy sent him back to Harvard to complete Officer Training School. When finished, John, an Ensign now, was assigned to the U.S.S. Lunga Point, an escort aircraft carrier, where he eventually became chief communication officer.
John fought throughout the Pacific Campaign enduring Kamikaze attacks and brutal naval engagements. As the war against Japan neared its conclusion, the Lunga Point was the closest ship to the Japanese mainland. Three days after the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, the ship learned that American POW’s were being executed. The captain needed to communicate directly to the President before landing a force on the mainland to rescue them. Due to communication protocols of the Navy, all radio communications were line of sight. The chief communication officer had no way of communicating directly to Washington D.C.. John, with his amateur radio background, knew what frequencies could be used to transmit a signal to the other side of the globe. He was responsible for radioing the intelligence directly to President Truman, overriding normal communication protocols. He received a message back directly from the President and was consequently sent with several crew members on shore to help liberate the POW’s, many of whom were barely alive and unable to walk. John was affected for the rest of his life by having witnessed the devastation the nuclear bomb inflicted upon the people of Japan.
For a short while, John was made the Captain of a submarine. It wasn't a U.S. submarine, however, and his rank of "Captain" was ceremonial. While convalescing from Yellow Fever, John was assigned the strange and unexpected duty of taking military and civilian dignitaries on tours of a captured Japanese submarine in the local marina.
John retired from the Navy in 1946 as a Lieutenant Commander.
After the war, John moved to Los Angeles to be with his father who had become president of Allied Artists. His father got him into the motion picture business as a film distributor.
John enjoyed the film industry and after learning the ropes distributing films he began working as an associate producer. He worked primarily on westerns, film-noirs, and TV crime dramas. In 1959, John partnered with attorney, Leonard Ackerman, to produce his first major motion picture, Al Capone, which to this day is considered one of the most gritty and accurate portrayals of the mafia crime boss.
In 1962, John met the love of his life, Naomi May Gray. A confirmed bachelor in his forties, John shocked his friends and family by marrying Naomi in Los Angeles on August 4th, 1967. John and Naomi were deeply in love and John was completely devoted to her. They loved going on long road trips and picnicking in Yosemite. Living the Hollywood lifestyle in a Sunset Plaza house that overlooked the city with views of the ocean and Catalina Island (on a nice day), John and Naomi had their first child, John Harvey Burrows III in 1968. Soon thereafter the couple was blessed with a daughter, Mindi Gray Burrows, in 1970.
The family eventually moved down from the hills to West Los Angeles. John continued producing films but with a young family he decided to pursue more steady work as a Production Manager for Warner Brothers. During this time, John worked on TV series such as Wonder Woman and Dukes of Hazzard. John would continue working as a production manager on films and TV shows for the rest of his career. He worked on such notable films as A Nightmare on Elm Street and Pump up the Volume as well as several Hallmark Production movies of the week.
John was a very special man. He had an almost magical quality that cannot be put into words. John was loved and respected by everyone who worked with him or got to know him. John was not religious but he had a peaceful spiritual quality about him that attracted people from all walks of life. He exuded a certain confidence about him that put people at ease and drew them out. John would strike up conversations with complete strangers and have them part ways like the best of friends.
John was also a playful and mischievous man who loved “pulling peoples’ legs”. He would tell the most outlandish stories that would have you believing every word until a certain sparkle in his eye let you know that he got you! He could also be downright silly. If his dog was barking too much or a neighbor's dog was barking in the middle of the night, he would occasionally open the window and let out a long wolf howl just to stir up the pot. If the phone was ringing too often while he was working, he would pick up the receiver and speak in bad Russian and then in accented English say, "This is the Russian Embassy!" which would, of course, cause the shocked caller to immediately hang up and not call back.
Due to his upbringing away from his parents, John was determined to be an attentive husband and father. Family was everything to him. Unlike most fathers of this time, John loved participating in the work of being a dad. He would change the diapers, cook dinners, bathe the kids and "putter" around the kitchen. When he wasn't working, he always made sure that he and Naomi had private time together whether it was romantic dinners out, going to movies, walks in Beverly Hills, or just being together holding hands.
John had a love for the ocean. He would take his young family to Newport Beach for weekends and summers to swim, boat, and kayak around the harbor. Later he would take his family to Morro Bay where the family spent every summer together until he passed away. He loved nothing better than sitting on the deck in Morro Bay with his binoculars keeping tabs on all the boats coming in and out of the bay. He and Naomi would spin tales about who was on the boats. What were their stories? What was their destination? What would it be like to have one of the beautiful ocean-going sailing boats and sail to ports unknown anywhere in the world?
In his late eighties, John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The disease gradually took away many of his memories but he remained the same sweet and loving man he had always been. They say that this disease strips away all of your artificiality and veneer, baring the soul of the person inside. John was just as wonderful, kind, and gentle as he was before the disease ravaged his mind.
John was preceded in death by his sister, Rose Marie Burrows; his father, George Dewy Burrows; his mother, Vincenza “Rose” Burrows; and his step-mother, Gladys Fae Burrows. Surviving him are his wife, Naomi Burrows; his son, John Burrows III and his fiancée Gina Wilmoth; his daughter, Mindi Gray Taylor and her husband James Taylor; and three grandchildren: Diego Burrows, Roman Burrows, and Jasmine Taylor.
John will be missed by all who loved him. He lived a truly wonderful life.
A memorial service for John will be announced as soon as the COVID pandemic has subsided and it is safe for people to travel and gather together so his family and friends can trade stories, laugh, and cry, in remembrance of this beautiful man.
If you would like to watch a video memorial of John’s life please click the link below:
Please add your comments or stories about John below on this website. We would love to hear from you!
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
John Harvey Burrows
September 4, 2020
John was one of the nicest men We have ever met. He was always happy and "always"ready to share a glass of wine. Never a cross or bitter word. He made the world a better place. Thank you for the shared wine and the Thanksgivings easters and other holidays we shared. God bless you John.
John Tammy Hayden and Isabella. Love and prayers to Nan..
September 3, 2020
Mr Jonh Burrows : was my boss my friend, I never met someone like him before he was a gentleman a wonderful father and the best husband, he always was there to help no matter how they are. He really was one of a kind, I love him so much he alway be in my mind an in my heart 💐
September 2, 2020
John was the nicest, sweetest human I have ever met. What I remember best about him is how nice he was to me. I was kid/teenager I think when I first met him and Nan. He never interacted with me as a kid, instead I was a person. Someone worthwhile to know.
You all have my heartfelt condolences.
September 2, 2020
My cousin John will be greatly missed by all his New York relatives. I remember many a happy Thanksgiving day at our Aunt Linda's house in Cozy Lake, NJ, and many a joyful Christmas at my parents house in Fresh Meadows, NY. He was a true "gentle" man. I am sure he was greeted by his parents and sister when be arrived in heaven.
September 1, 2020
Very nicely written obituary and informative. The video was very well done also.
I did get to meet him once. He was friendly to me.
Sorry for your loss!
August 31, 2020
We shared a few Thanksgiving meals with John and Naomi at James and Mindi's house. John was always friendly and nice to us and had a wonderful smile. It was very obvious he loved his family and we also noticed that he was very attentive and loving to Naomi. He loved Mindi's cooking and always complimented her. All in all, we really enjoyed being welcomed into these family celebrations. John's 90th birthday party at the beach was the best! He will be missed.