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Cathleen (Burns) Elmer

Cathleen (Burns) Elmer

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January 2, 2014
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Cathleen (Burns) Elmer passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. She was born on Jan. 26, 1918, in Andover, Mass.

Cathleen was educated at Abbot Academy, from which she graduated cum laude. An honor graduate of Smith College (A.B. in English) and Boston University (A.M. in English), she taught English, dramatics, and Spanish for eight years in Massachusetts and Connecticut secondary schools. After World War II, she entered a national writing-editing contest sponsored by Mademoiselle magazine. Informed by the magazine in l947 that she was one of the contest’s “top and best” finalists, she left teaching for New York and took a job as staff writer-editor at Scholastic Magazines. She returned to Boston in 1952 to assume a dual editorial and management role as assistant to the editor of Massachusetts Physician, and as executive secretary of the Norfolk District of the Massachusetts Medical Society.

In 1953, she married William Elmer, an internationally noted engineer and inventor. Their son, Edward, was born in 1958, and Cathleen turned to free-lancing at home, first, as a writer-editor for Ginn and Company and Houghton Mifflin, and later, as a book reviewer for the New York Times, the Boston Herald and Herald American, the Baltimore Sun, and The Washington Times. Over the years, she contributed articles and short fiction to Mademoiselle, Seventeen, Ingenue, and American Mercury.

A younger sister of the late World War II novelist John Home Burns (The Gallery), Cathleen was a perfectionist who wrote and rewrote, often against stringent editorial and journalistic deadlines and uncompromising space limitations. When editors or agents she worked with had occasion to characterize her work, they spoke of her “total professionalism” or called her “a born writer” with “very real talent and ability.” Cathleen was a zestful, year-round lap-swimmer well into her 70s.

She was preceded in death by her husband, William.

Cathleen is survived by her son, Dr. Edward B. Elmer, an orthopaedic surgeon practicing in Texas, and his wife, Dr. Laura M. Elmer; six grandchildren, Michael, Katherine, Mark, Sarah, Matthew, and Marshall Elmer; two sisters, Anne M. Laskey of Meredith, N.H., and Constance Silverman of Sharon, Conn.; and her brother, attorney Thomas D. Burns of Boston, Mass.

Services will be private with cremation to follow in New Hampshire.

Memorial contributions may be made to Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library, the repository of Cathleen’s papers.

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