Katherine Nolan Burlin
July 16, 1922 – December 8, 2020
Katherine Nolan Burlin, 98, of Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and North Chatham passed away on Tuesday, December 8, 2020 in Alexandria, Virginia following a stroke. Born July 16, 1922, in Whiz Bang, 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 and went to work for Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita. Eager to support the war effort, she left her civilian job in 1944 and enlisted in the Navy’s Reserve Force for Women, the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She served as an executive secretary at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Deland, Florida.
At the war’s end, Kay was discharged from the WAVES and went to work for Eastern Airlines, going “on the line” as a flight attendant based in New York, Boston and Miami. She also began volunteering with the American Red Cross, which became a large part of her life for the next six decades. Over the years, Kay managed blood drives, coordinated disaster services and handled emergency cases with Services to Military Families. In recognition of her service, Kay received the Clara Barton Meritorious Leadership Award.
While on an Eastern flight in 1949, Kay met her future husband, Army Engineer Major Robert “Bob” Burlin. They were married at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod in July of 1951. During 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 also had a talent for cooking and entertaining and never missed an opportunity to bring people together.
In the 1960s, Kay and Bob bought property overlooking Pleasant Bay in North Chatham, adjacent to land that Bob’s parents had purchased in 1936. Here they spent many summers warmly hosting family and friends with delicious food and lively conversation, boat outings, and early morning fishing trips.
When Bob retired from the Army in 1971, Kay continued to be a supportive partner in his 20-year civilian engineering career, with moves to Pittsburgh, Pa., Concord and Haddonfield, N.J. Kay returned to the work force as an Executive Assistant at New England Life Insurance in Boston and began narrating books for the Massachusetts Association for the Blind in Boston and Recordings for the Blind in Princeton, N.J.
Kay and Bob retired to Melbourne, Florida in 1990, but he passed away soon after. Kay spent the next three decades living among family and friends in Florida, and later Virginia, with all of her summers in Chatham. She continued her volunteer work well into her 90s, adding museum volunteer at the Atwood House in Chatham to her list of charitable activities. Kay was always eager to share the Cape she loved with visitors and conducted impromptu tours without hesitation, often including a show at the Monomoy Theater, a Chatham Athletics baseball game, or a sweet treat at Candy Manor.
At the age of 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, 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 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. Kay is also survived by her brother-in-law, Charles William Burlin, Jr. of North Chatham, and nephews Charles W. Burlin III, David Burlin, John Burlin, and their families.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery, next to her husband at a later date. Donations can be made in Kay’s memory to The Chatham Historical Society, P.O. Box 709, Chatham, MA 02633 or The American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839.