By Sam Hawcroft
Tributes have been paid to Gazette columnist and Seaside FM presenter Andrea Burn after her death aged 62.
Andrea, who wrote the monthly column, Well, I Declare, about her childhood in her native US, died on January 25 after being diagnosed with cancer a few months previously.
She held a lifelong passion for writing and telling stories, and was the driving force behind the Gazette’s A Thousand Words competition. The annual contest aimed to inspire people in our region to unleash their creativity and write a short story to be published in the newspaper and broadcast by Andrea on Seaside FM.
She was born in Bristol, Tennessee, in 1960. Her family moved to the UK and settled in Birmingham, West Midlands, 10 years later where, as she once wrote, her parents’ quest “to reinvent our 1930s semi as a gracious Southern home continued unabated”.
Andrea’s father was a teacher and historian who was “fascinated” by England. “They just took a chance and came across here,” said Andrea’s husband, Richard.
She would later become a school teacher in Maidstone, Kent, for many years.
Her colleague Carol Burman said: “Parents, children and staff adored her.
“She loved her new life in Withernsea and enjoyed working with the radio station.
“While everyone in Maidstone is heartbroken, we are happy that she had such a fabulous time in Withernsea with new friends and new activities.”
After first being diagnosed with cancer about 15 years ago and undergoing a major operation, it had long been Andrea’s dream to live by the sea, Richard said.
Richard, who grew up in Batley, had spent summers in Withernsea since the 1960s, and after he met Andrea – when she was a “waitress in a cocktail bar” in Birmingham in 1980 – he took her to the resort on holiday a year later.
Andrea became a British citizen in 2004. “She never lost her love for America,” said Richard, “and still has lots of family there. We went over there frequently.”
They later retired to Withernsea in 2011, and Andrea became a popular and well-loved figure, not just for her writing and broadcasting, but as a regular walker on the prom with her beloved dogs, Humph and Milly.
Jayne Nendick, chief executive of the Shores Centre, recalled Andrea’s storytelling as part of the SeaGals series on Seaside FM.
She said: “When you sat with her, you became part of that story. She just generated that emotion within you, and you just felt as though you were walking on air when you were with her.
“It was just a delight, being in the room with her, working alongside her and listening to those stories, and listening to the animation in her voice. When she did her Deep South accents, that still puts a smile on my face now.
“She was just pure joy and positivity – the truest of characters.”
Seaside FM presenter John Harding said: “In a world which is full of negativity, whenever Andrea walked through the door into the studio, she was always smiling and positive – she just wouldn’t put up with negativity.”
Fellow Seaside presenter Alex Cann added: “She was so positive, so enthusiastic and loved by all of our listeners. I loved her passion for books, for reading, for storytelling, and her zest for life. She will be missed.”
Richard told how Andrea died peacefully at Dove House Hospice, where she had received “excellent” care.
“She thought she had beaten the cancer, but all the while it was lurking there,” he said.
“She was holding my hand while they played Somewhere Over the Rainbow – the Judy Garland version, of course. She loved the Wizard of Oz. She was just such a shining light, and she shone to the end.”
Andrea leaves her husband Richard, sons Ronnie and Harry, and daughter Molly. Funeral details will be confirmed in due course.
The Gazette will be continuing the short story writing competition in Andrea’s memory, which we will make further announcements about in the coming weeks.