Swan Funeral Home

825 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT


Dr. James E. Burris Jr.

April 13, 1931December 21, 2018
Play Tribute Movie

JAMES (Jim) EARLE BURRIS, JR., M.D., 87 years old, of WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK and MADISON, CONNECTICUT passed away peacefully surrounded by his loving family on December 21, 2018 in North Branford, CT. He was married to his wife and dance partner of 55 years, Ruth Ellen Burris (née McQuiston) who he met at a formal dance class. They danced beautifully together, as often as possible, until she predeceased him in 2011.

Born on April 13, 1931 as the eldest child of Dr. and Mrs. James E. Burris, Sr. (née Pauline Philomene Poirier), he spent his youth in Newton Highlands, MA with his brother John (Jay) and sister Pauline (Polly). Having been nicknamed “Bunny” as an infant by his grandmother, his siblings continued to call him by that affectionate moniker throughout their lives.

While Jim’s education got off to a rocky start with his dismissal from kindergarten for overly spirited behavior, he soon got the hang of the academic environment ultimately skipping a grade in elementary school. He attended the prestigious Boston Public Latin School and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Harvard University in 1952. Along with being an honor student, he was active, often taking leadership roles, in many extracurricular activities. He obtained his medical degree from the Boston University School of Medicine, completing his medical internship at Boston Medical Center and his surgical residency in ophthalmology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary in NYC, serving as Chief Resident.

Jim proudly served as a physician in the United States Navy while stationed in Quantico, VA. He was honorably discharged after attaining the rank of Captain.

Jim and Ruth moved their growing family to White Plains, NY in 1964 where he started a successful private practice in ophthalmology, sustaining them for nearly forty years. Bought by Westchester Eye Associates in 2001, it remains a vital and thriving practice to this day. He was affiliated with both Saint Agnes Hospital and White Plains Hospital where he served in numerous leadership positions culminating as President of the Medical Staff at White Plains Hospital. A highly regarded and innovative surgeon, Jim developed a number of cutting-edge surgical techniques for the treatment of glaucoma during his career. He was a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and a member of the American Board of Ophthalmology.

Jim was an active community member serving for years in the Valhalla Lions Club. Through that affiliation, as well as his work at both hospitals, he regularly donated his time and talent providing free eye exams and glaucoma screenings for those in need. He was a board member at the Lighthouse for the Blind in White Plains and provided expert medical care to at-risk youth at the Jenny Clarkson Home and Saint Mary’s in the Field. He was a willing supporter of Ruth’s many volunteer activities, energetically participating in fundraising efforts, such as dinner dances, modeling in charity fashion shows, playing Santa Claus and buying hundreds of raffle tickets, remarkably often winning the top prize.

After spending many summers in Madison, CT, he and Ruth bought a beach house on Middle Beach Road West, which the family continues to enjoy today. Upon his semi-retirement, they relocated permanently to Legend Hill where their longstanding memberships in The Madison Beach Club, The Madison Country Club and The Winter Club enabled them to enjoy many lasting friendships.

Jim was honored to receive an offer from his former protégé, Robert J. Klimek, MD, to join his practice on a part-time basis at The Shoreline Eye Group of Old Saybrook, and Waterford, CT. He served there for over a decade until he fully retired in 2013.

An avid life-long exercise buff, Jim enjoyed his daily workout at the gym as well as tennis, alpine skiing, water skiing, boating, golfing, bowling and hiking. He passed his love of these sports to his children, taking great pleasure in pulling everyone out of bed at dawn when the waters were “still” and the snow “fresh.”

Jim, also known by those who adored him as Dad, Daddy, Pop, Poppy and “The Popster,” was a proud, loving and supportive father to his six children: Karen (Lombardi) Lennon (Michael) of NYC and Madison, Susanne of NYC, Laura Desmarais (John) of Mt. Kisco, NY, NYC and Madison, James III (Erin Blake) of Madison, Sara (Libonati) of Mt. Kisco, NY and Raymond (Sonia Massol) of NYC.

He was a devoted and playful “Poppy” to his ten grandchildren: Lauren Lombardi McGann (Sean), Kathryn Lombardi, James IV, Jennifer, John J. Desmarais, Julia Desmarais, Elisabeth Libonati, Andrew Libonati, Raymond II, Mateo and his great-grandson, Matthew Dorpfeld Smith.

Along with his parents, wife and siblings, Jim was predeceased by his in-laws, Raymond C. and Kathryn Duggan McQuiston, of Newton, MA, his sister-in-law Joan McQuiston Twiss and her husband A. Robert of Craftsbury, VT, his brother-in-law Bernard Elkins of Wilmington DE. and Myra Mahon of NYC, a dear family friend.

In addition to his children and grandchildren, Jim leaves behind his sister-in-law Dorothy Duncan Burris of Jacksonville, FL, his nieces and nephews: Earle Burris (Eva) of Jacksonville, Andrew Burris of Jacksonville, Janine Peeples (William) of St. Augustine, FL, Pauline Hurst (Duanne) of Bear, DE, James Elkins of Washington State, David V. Elkins (Daniele) of Wilmington, Michael Elkins (Alexis) of Wilmington and many grand nieces and nephews. He was a treasured in-law and surrogate grandfather to numerous loved ones in the Lennon, Cavanna, Yeske, Costabile, Blake, and Massol families, and a beloved cousin to the extended Ferrone family. He was fortunate to have enjoyed countless lifelong friendships especially that of Arthur J. Mahon, of NYC, and his children Maura, Madonna, Arthur Jr. and Nancy (Susan) as well as Lucinda Cutler, of Essex CT, who he enjoyed spending time with in his later years.

Jim was an elegant gentleman with a humble heart who worked tirelessly for those he loved. His was a life well lived.

Calling hours will be held on Friday, January 11, from 4 - 8 pm at the Swan Funeral Home, 825 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT. A mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, January 12, at 10:00 am , at Saint Margaret Church, 24 Academy Street, Madison, CT.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to Middlesex Health Cancer Center, c/o Development Office, 28 Crescent St., Middletown, CT 06457 or www.middlesexhospital.org/support or to the Madison Ambulance Association, 9 Old State Hwy 79, Madison, CT 06443.


  • Visitation Friday, January 11, 2019
  • Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, January 12, 2019
  • Burial Saturday, January 12, 2019


Dr. James E. Burris Jr.

have a memory or condolence to add?

Melanie Celli

January 7, 2019

What a sweet kind man I recall growing up in the Burris family household throughoutmy younger years it was actually a second home to me a childhood memories I will never forget between the White Plains Mayfair acres home and Madison Connecticut my thoughts and prayers are with all of the family may God rest his soul

Judith Stigle

January 7, 2019

As a neighbor at Legend Hill, my favorite memories were the many phone calls I received from Ruthie asking me over for ice
cream and come as you are. We would enjoy every bite and there sat Jim in his PJs and Ruth and
me in our nightgowns. It was a grownup PJ party!
They are missed as very special
People and in my heart I know they are once again together.

Jocelyn Cunningham

January 7, 2019

To the Burris Family:

I am so very sorry for your loss. Your Dad was a wonderful man. As new neighbors in Madison, he and Ruth reached out, made themselves known, and invited us to their parties and often would just pop over to say hi! Your Dad was a gentleman, always happy and had a cheery smile, wave and hello whenever he saw us! Such a joy to talk to.... with fabulous stories and reflections..... always very generous with his time. A great life well lived!

Charlotte Ingersoll

December 31, 2018

Dear Burris Children,

I always thought you father was the sweetest, kindest man I ever met.
You are in our thoughts and prayers as you go through this time.
We all share fond memories of Stonehenge and Madison, and it was a gift to know both of your parents. I learned a lot from them both.

Jim’s obituary was such a wonderful story of his life. He never stopped giving. “A life well lived”!

Blessings to you all,
Charlotte and Tony Ingersoll

Thomas Horton

December 22, 2018

Deepest condolences to the entire Burris Family. Your father was a true gentleman & professional. Always giving of himself to his family & others. Quiet, humble & kind. These are the traits that come to my mind. Very very sorry for your loss. God bless. Respectfully, Tom Horton