Katherine Nolan Burlin, 98, of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, passed away on Tuesday, December 8, 2020, in Alexandria, following a stroke. Born July 16, 1922, in Whizbang, Oklahoma to Margaret Cecelia Phalen Nolan and Leo Bernard Nolan, she was raised in oil field boom towns in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas.
Kay graduated from Hutchinson Junior College in Kansas with a degree in Journalism and worked for Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita. Eager to support the war effort, she left her civilian job in 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and served as a Yeoman at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Deland, Florida.
Discharged from the WAVES at the end of WWII, Kay went to work in the Executive Office of Eastern Airlines in New York. Shortly thereafter, she decided to “go on the line” as a flight attendant and was based in New York, Boston, and Miami. Ever anxious to serve, these years also marked the beginning of Kay’s six decades of volunteer work with the American Red Cross. She managed blood drives, coordinated disaster services, and handled emergency cases with Services to Military Families for which she was honored with the Clara Barton Meritorious Leadership Award.
While on an Eastern flight in 1949, Kay met her future husband, Army Engineer Major Robert “Bob” Burlin. The couple married on July 3, 1951, at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. Over the next 20 years of Bob’s active duty military service, they moved ten times and weathered several hardship tours and deployments while raising three daughters.
Kay’s undaunted spirit and joyful heart contributed to the countless military and civilian friendships she made and maintained throughout her life. She was a member of the Army Engineer Spouses’ Club for over 60 years, serving in Board and leadership positions and, most recently, as the liaison for her military retirement community, The Fairfax. She also remained involved with Bob’s classmates, their wives, and children in the West Point Class of January 1943 community.
In 1968, Kay and Bob purchased property overlooking Pleasant Bay in North Chatham, MA, where they spent many summers warmly hosting family and friends with delicious food and lively conversation. When Bob retired from the military in 1971, Kay continued to be a supportive partner in his 20-year civilian engineering career. Kay was pleased that their first move was to Pittsburgh. Since her parents had grown up in western Pennsylvania, Kay relished the chance to reconnect with her extended Nolan family. After two years, Kay once again packed up the household and they moved to Concord, MA and, years later, Haddonfield, NJ. During this time, Kay returned to work as an Executive Assistant at New England Life. She also began sharing her love of reading by narrating books for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind in Boston and Recordings for the Blind in Princeton, NJ.
Kay and Bob retired to Melbourne, Florida in 1990, but Bob passed away shortly thereafter. Kay spent the next three decades living among family and friends in Florida, Cape Cod, and Virginia. She continued to volunteer well into her 90s, adding museum docent to her list of charitable activities and lending a hand at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital and in the Health Center at The Fairfax. At age 95, she delivered the Navy Tribute at the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the gate of Arlington National Cemetery. It is with great sadness that her family and friends now bid her Fairwinds and Following Seas.
Kay was predeceased by her husband of 39 years COL Robert Belleau Burlin, USA Ret., her daughter, Ann Elizabeth Burlin, her sisters, Mary Margaret Nolan and Ellen Bride Alves, and her brothers Leo Bernard Nolan, Jr, and John Edward Nolan. She is survived by two daughters, Mary Jane Hayden (Richard) of Sudbury, MA, and Patricia Kennedy (Kevin) of Vienna, VA, grandsons Brendan Hayden, Derek Hayden (Marcie), Greg Hayden (Meghan); Thomas Kennedy (Jordan); granddaughter Katherine Kennedy Medrano (Gabriel); and great-grandchildren Molly, Sam, Luke, and Callum Hayden.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery next to her husband at a later date.
Donations in Kay’s memory can be made to The Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22203 Women In Military Service For America Memorial (womensmemorial.org) or The American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839 www.redcross.org
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