Obituaries detail

Charles Lee Burner, Jr.

Charles Lee Burner, Jr., 65, of Leawood, KS, died on November 26, 2020, at St. Luke’s Hospice House in Kansas City, MO, following five years’ contention with a rare brain tumor.


Lee was born on February 14, 1955, in Joplin, MO, to Rev. Charles L. Burner and Verda E. (Wagner) Burner of Sarcoxie, MO. The family later lived in Belton, Kansas City, and Boonville, MO, where Rev. Burner pastored United Methodist churches. Being a preacher’s kid in a small town in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s wasn’t always easy, but Lee was just rebellious enough to enjoy being a normal teenager without scandalizing his parents and community. He was noted for his artistic talents in high school, and also went out for wrestling.


Lee completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Missouri State University in 1976, double-majoring in graphic design and drawing. He married Joyce A. Adams on June 11, 1977. Lee and Joyce met in high school, where they paid each other little attention, then attended the same university, where they became good friends and later fell in love. Their shared background and common experiences laid the basis of their 43-year marriage, granting them strong understanding and deep love for each other. They had two children: Katharine Gayle born in 1984, and Colleen Suzanne in 1987.


Lee delighted in being a dad, and enthusiastically encouraged his kids' creative endeavors and interests. Lessons in using pinhole cameras taught patience and perception, canoe trips and hikes bestowed an appreciation of nature, and home improvement projects showed the importance of creating what you want and working toward satisfaction. These lessons continued as the kids grew up, as he helped Kate and her husband, Dan, with remodeling on their first home in St. Paul, MN, and helped Colleen move cross country to Portland, OR. Lee also parented with humor, was a proponent of goofiness, and was frequently tickled by his kids' non sequiturs. 


Lee later found joy in being a grandfather. Trips with Joyce to St. Paul to visit his two grandkids (and their parents) were frequent as long as schedules and snow allowed. Lee was often found following Alex (5) and Micah (2.5) around with a camera in hand, reading a book, playing a game, holding a sleeping baby, or bestowing “Grandpa Hugs” to the delight of all. The grandsons came to know Grandpa’s warmth, love, and humor.  


Lee’s thirty-five year career at Hallmark Cards centered on artwork creation and translation. Hired as a Process Artist in 1977, he became a Section Manager in Process Art Production, and later worked as Department Manager in Custom Photo Processing, Financial Services Project Leader, and Color Production Manager. Lee’s strength in strategic planning made him a top pick to start new departments as technology evolved and changed the graphic arts industry. As Manager of Digital Image Finishing, Lee built and led the first fully digital department in the Graphic Arts Division, utilizing Scitex equipment. Later, as Mac technology replaced Scitex, Lee built the first Production Art department in the Creative Division. As Manager of Production Art, he and his team of supervisors built workflows, functions, and job roles to fully integrate “Graphics” digital work into the creative process. During this time, his team hired and trained over one hundred Production Artists, in the most exciting and exhausting stretch of his career. Lee completed his time at Hallmark as a Senior Project Manager, retiring in 2012. This final role gave him the opportunity to lead cross divisional projects, but perhaps more importantly to mentor and share his extensive knowledge with others. 


Lee was respected as a gifted adviser and advocate for his people, encouraging and enabling his colleagues to excel in their careers. He consistently brought calm, rational leadership to every situation, plus wizard-like spreadsheet skills. On more than one occasion, Lee was asked to take over a struggling work area and help it regain its full potential. Lee’s colleagues have remarked that every situation was better when he was involved. When he graduated from college, he had envisioned a career in graphic design; asked years later if he ever missed “using his talents,” he simply said that it turned out he had other gifts, too, and was satisfied with the impact and course of his professional life. And lest he sound too serious, Lee relished a good practical joke at work, and cracked up his coworkers with his wry and ironic remarks.


Away from work, Lee devoted countless evenings, weekends, and vacations to extensive home renovation and improvement on each of the older houses he and Joyce owned in Mission, Countryside, and Leawood, KS. On kitchen remodels, a two-story addition, basement finishing, and general updating, Lee applied precision, careful planning, and excellent craftsmanship, taking pride and satisfaction in working with his hands and creating a comfortable and attractive home for his family. He completed much of the work himself, with assistance from Joyce, his father, and friends, but always contracted out the drywall, which was “not his medium.” 


Photography was a lifelong passion. Lee maintained a home darkroom, enjoyed shooting black and white film and taking photography classes, and later adopted digital photography with enthusiasm. He loved poking around estate sales and antique stores, and built a collection of vintage cameras. In retirement, Lee returned to printmaking, first studied in college. He and Joyce often traveled to major and regional art exhibitions, and were regular patrons of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where they were longtime Friends of Art members and frequently brought their kids. Music was another constant in Lee’s life, ranging from John Prine to Bruce Springsteen. The last live shows he and Joyce saw were Bruce Cockburn and Bob Dylan, two favorites. 


Traveling and enjoying the outdoors were a highlight of every summer, especially Rocky Mountain National Park. When the children were young, Joyce discovered it was best to let Lee get up at 5:00 a.m. and bag a peak early on his own; by the time he returned to the cabin, she and the kids were up, dressed, fed, and ready for more leisurely hikes, and Lee had scratched his mountain climbing itch enough to enjoy the rest of a less athletic day with them. He also organized annual “Man Trips” to climb the higher Colorado peaks, and he summited Longs Peak with several friends. In his fifties, Lee took up motorcycling, and enjoyed numerous bike trips with different groups of fellow riders. True to his nature, he was an “all the gear all the time” motorcyclist, never a daredevil, but he loved the freedom and joy he found in riding. Lee was also an avid bicyclist for many years, and completed the MS 150 bike ride multiple times.


Other favorite travel destinations included Santa Fe and Taos, NM; California wine country; San Diego; New York City; the Pacific Northwest, including Vancouver, BC; New England; the driving loop around Lake Superior; Minnesota; and most any area in the West with big red rocks. In retirement, Lee took on a massive project identifying and scanning all of the family photos he’d inherited, completing some genealogy work in the process. In 2014, he and Joyce drove to the East Coast and back, stopping to locate family graves and ancestral homes along the way. 


In all his endeavors, whether professional or family, pleasure or work, Lee’s life was characterized by kindness and integrity. His consistent ethic of dependability, respect, and inclusion was extraordinary, and he believed in a good and loving God whose Image is found in all others. His inclusive Christian faith informed his progressive political views, always falling on the side of the disadvantaged and oppressed. 


Lee was preceded in death by his parents; and two sisters, Ardith Lee Sehnert and Laura Jean Wilson. He is survived by his wife, Joyce A. Burner; his children, Kate (Dan) Makosky of St. Paul, MN, and Colleen Burner of Portland, OR; his grandchildren, Alexander Lee and Micah Robert Makosky; his brother-in-law, Mark C. Adams of Kansas City, MO, and his sister-in-law, Carolyn Adams of Boonville, MO; several cousins, two nephews, and a niece; and more friends than we can count. 


We hope to hold a memorial celebration at a future date when it is safe to gather. In lieu of flowers or plants, the family suggests memorial gifts to Jacob’s Well Church, 1617 W. 42nd St., Kansas City, MO 64111 (, or to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (


Craig Lueck Nov 30 ,2020

Friend ,Overland Park ,Kansas

I was so fortunate to work with Lee off and on at Hallmark. He was the calming agency in the meeting room and the guy to add integrity into the mix while still being uber-creative, or at least patient with those of us who did not have his skills of composure. The annual “Man Trips” (motorcycle)to climb the higher Colorado peaks, was most memorable. His sense of wonder was fun to be part of. Sure will miss him. Bless you. Craig

Martha Medley Proulx Nov 30 ,2020

Joyce's cousin ,Cape Coral ,Florida

Joyce and daughters, I never had the pleasure of meeting Lee. Iva Mae always spoke very highly of him. I see after reading his obituary and many journal entries from friends and colleagues the extraordinary human you all were quite blessed to have as a husband and father. The world needs more like Lee. Hopefully those he so positively impacted will follow his lead. Side note: Joyce we have a couple parallels with our kiddos. All very close in age, mine born 1983 and 1987. Daughter's husband from Portland. She was involved with Jacob's Well before leaving KC. I continue to pray for peace to you all.

Dee Middleton Dec 01 ,2020

Co worker ,Independence ,Missouri

Joyce, Kate and Colleen, I am so saddened to hear of Lee’s passing. I worked for him for 12 years and have many great memories. He was well loved and respected at Hallmark. An all-around great guy.My condolences and prayers are with you all. Dee

Karen Shaw Dec 02 ,2020

Joyce’s Colleague ,Smithville ,Missouri

What a loving and beautiful tribute to a man who loved life and was loved by so many. Thank you so much for your and Lee’s entries of truths, insights, and most of all love; it has been a gift to us all. Continued prayers for peace and comfort as your life journey continues on with Lee watching and cheering you all on from above.

Ralph Sweatte Dec 07 ,2020

Friend, former co-worker ,Lake Forest ,Illinois

Lee often worked through the wonder of light in his photography and in his life. It was always a joy to see him at Hallmark and he lived that life for those known as the least of these so now we can celebrate the light of -- "Just as those who see the light are illuminated by the light and and share in its brilliance, so those who see God are in God and share God's splendor." Gregory The Great

Sheri Thompson Dec 17 ,2020

Hillcrest Covenant ,Prairie Village ,Kansas

Joyce, I am so sorry to read of Lee's passing. I had no idea. Reading his obituary, I am struck by how full his life was. I remember you both from days at Hillcrest and all the ways you both served there for years. You and your entire family are in my prayers.