Ronald Dean Burian died suddenly on June 21. He was born in 1947 in Lebanon, Oregon, where he grew up in the country with his family, including his two sisters, Judy Billings and Jeanne Wright. He served in Vietnam as a combat soldier, and when he returned to the US, he moved to Aspen, Colorado. There he met his wife, Jennifer, and they lived in the mountains and skied every day. They moved to Madison and had two amazing children, elly rainbow and Caleb. He was so thrilled to have them marry wonderful spouses, Joshua and Andrea. His grandchildren, Luca and Wilder, were the love of his life. He taught them to garden and instilled in them a love of the earth.
In Vietnam, Ron encountered a Buddhist monk who was a scout for the US Army. This monk serenely walked through jungle war zones, which made an indelible impression on Ron. Once back in the US, he began Buddhist studies and in 1992 was a founding member of a Buddhist congregation in Madison and was instrumental in the construction of a Buddhist monument in Wisconsin.
For the past 20 years, Ron worked as a social work researcher in Chicago, connecting with youth in the prison system. After retiring last year, he volunteered in Wisconsin's prisons doing mindfulness meditation with inmates. He was passionate about veterans and their mental health, and participated in many veteran groups in town.
Ron's vet friend Christopher shared this,
"The social sage that he was, he was always looking for ways to help others on their journeys, wherever he found them, and with whatever tools he had. He was known for this and he will be remembered for this."
Ron was a wise spiritual brother and leader. Ron's steady, kind and generous nature nurtured and encouraged everyone around him. Ron will be deeply missed. He loved well, lived well and died well.
Our hearts are broken to lose this wonderful human being.
Peace Be Ron.
The Four Immeasurables:
May all beings be happy and have the causes of happiness.
May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they find joy free from sorrow.
May they rest in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.
Ron requested no memorial service, but will have a private Buddhist ceremony at his cremation. Donations may be sent in Ron's name to:
Ron always seemed somehow unchanged while radically altering everyone else in the room around him. for the better.
After not seeing him in over 20 years, Ron made the time to help us rebuild the masonry on our house after a collision broke it apart. He spent a whole day with my husband, who he had never met, teaching him enough to be his assistant for the day. My husband really enjoyed learning from him and being a part of the process. We will always remember his kindness and generosity toward us. I will always remember his smile and gentle manner when we hung out at the Burian’s house in high school, his humor, and his acceptance of us kids who were struggling so hard against conventions.
Ron recently began going into Waupun maximum-security prison with a small group of us to teach mindfulness meditation to inmates. He brought his quiet presence, attentive listening and good-natured wisdom to the men, great gifts to people who rarely receive any of these things. We did not know Ron well, but we saw enough to admire his kindness, compassion and amiable style. His engaging personality and wide ranging knowledge on many topics made him a great partner on our long drives to the prison. Our condolences to his loved ones: he will live on in the positive impacts, great and small, that he has had in many lives.
I have been hearing from many of Ron's long time colleagues here at Northwestern. Passing along a few...
"What a warm, dear man Ron was -- but fierce in his defense of folks such as vets and NJP participants...."
"He was such a big influence on all of us as a colleague, confidant, and friend..."
" I have such fond memories of the time that I spent sharing an office with Ron. He was such a kind, gentle soul. I feel lucky to have known him. Keeping him and his family in my prayers."
"Such a loss and Ron was such a beautiful soul and a friend to so, so many. I feel lucky to have crossed paths with him, in this lifetime. "
Oh Ron, what can I say to your loved ones that they don’t already know. My heart was saddened with the news of your passing. Your taught me many things about life and myself way back when you were my supervisor. I will forever treasure the Vietnam stories that you seemed to tie into everyday situations. Those stories helped me grow as an individual. I wish I had the chance for just one more conversation. You will be missed greatly. I am certain you have left many hearts broken but you have also left many lessons to be carried on as we all make the world a little brighter by the knowledge and live that you instilled in us. Rest easy I hope to see you again in the afterlife ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
2014 party for Rosa's 15th
Ron sent this to me in March with the comment "Pics of some fireplaces that I built years ago are below (and me!)"
He was another brother to me and the family. My family and Ron's grew up together in rural Oregon. His smile and friendship will surely be missed. Rest in peace my friend.
‘I always wanted to be like Ron’. He was my very best friend growing up. From 1st grade thru high school we were always together and doing stuff and exploring the boundaries of childhood. I never lost that special bond and love. We had great times when he visited Idaho to snowmobile and ride ATVs. He stopped in Salt Lake City to visit with Sheri and I shortly after we were married. We also spent some time in Lebanon at Zel’s funeral to take a nostalgic auto tour of Berlin and the old neighborhood. We visited the Oregon State campus and took some pictures of our fraternity homes. We had some great memories. He was my idol for so many years and had an immeasurable impact on my life and attitude toward life. I loved and enjoyed his writings and knew he had a real talent for putting pen to paper. He was my Mom’s favorite son, who so enjoyed receiving his cards and notes on a regular basis. She we surely miss that and be so sad to hear the news. We planned to drive to Middleton in an RV within the next year to see him and meet Jennifer, who I have heard of for decades but never met. Perhaps we can still do that.
Our prayers and love.
Cliff & Sheri Evarts
I have practiced Kung fu with Ron for the last 14 years. His presence was always welcoming and class was always better when he was there. Not only did he provide a wealth of knowledge about the cultivation of self, worldly affairs, and social justice, but he led by example. I will miss our conversations, his wisdom, his brightening smile, and his calming presence. He was a dear friend and will be greatly missed. Peace Be.
We are very saddened to learn of this. Ron was a warrior in many respects, blessed with a heart of gold. One time when we visited Jen & Ron in Boulder, upon returning home I found a dozen little notes with Buddhist quotes in my pockets. Positive affirmations. What a special man. He will be missed. Peace and blessings to Ron, Jennifer and Family. Doug Sisler, Dallas
My heart goes out to the family today. Ron was my elder kung fu brother, teacher and friend, he never stopped learning and sharing what he knew. He encouraged good health and a strong, disciplined and peaceful mind through regular practice and meditation. He was always generous with his time and attention and humor and deep understanding. He encouraged me to the practice of Buddhism, introducing me to his teacher of decades. We sat for hours over the years sipping coffee, talking kung fu, movies, history, engines, books we were reading, Buddhism, the Tao te ching, family life, gardening, social justice, the effects of war. How can one repay a friend who has given so much, so many gifts?
He was a true peacemaker in the world, and I'll miss him deeply.
“Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your mind be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
But contemplate their return-
Returning to the source is Serenity.
When you realize where you come from you naturally become tolerant,
Kind hearted as a Grandma,
Dignified as a King.
Immersed in the Wonder of the Tao You can deal with whatever Life brings you-
And when death comes, you are ready.”
- Tao Te Ching
Thank you, Ron, for pouring love, compassion, and wisdom into our lives. You made me a better person, and you will forever be missed ❤
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