Aaron Matthew Burns, age 49, died at his home in Denver on Monday, July 19. The cause of his death was ROS1-positive lung cancer.
Born September 16, 1971, in Fort Collins, CO, he attended the University of Chicago before earning a BA in English from the University of Michigan in 1994. A lifelong Cubs fan, Aaron actually quickly returned to Chicago to pursue his interest in theatre -- and not necessarily the Cubs -- highlighted by his performance as the lead role in an Equity production of Amadeus in 2001. Eventually succumbing to the cold, he moved to Orange, California, where he graduated from Chapman University’s MFA film program in 2007. The following year he returned to Colorado. Everywhere Aaron lived, he created friendships with eclectic people of all ages and backgrounds.
In 2009, Aaron began teaching at Colorado Film School at the Community College of Aurora. His classes focused on editing, writing, acting, and improv -- and he also helped set admission standards for the program. Each summer beginning in 2013, Aaron transplanted to Colorado Springs to teach at the Youth Documentary Academy. His talents, mentoring, and optimism were infectious among the staff and students, and the curriculum was shaped in many important ways by him.
Aaron originally developed a passion for theatre in the summer of 1987, when he played the lead role in his father’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs at CSU. The remainder of his high school years were dominated by the performing arts -- plays, musicals, orchestra, marching band, and choir (while squeezing in time to serve as editor of the newspaper). His enthusiasm for the theatre naturally led to voiceover work in radio and TV commercials, which he continued throughout his life, and for which he also lent his talents as a writer and producer.
In the spring of 1998, Aaron leveraged his production talents to land a spot as the A/V manager on Semester at Sea, navigating the globe on a ship to visit ten countries. It was quite the family affair, as his three brothers joined as students on the floating university, and his dad taught classes, with his mom keeping tabs on everyone. It was the Burns family's second time taking this journey, following their maiden voyage in 1981.
Over the past ten years, Aaron found a new passion… as an uncle to his niece and two nephews. He’d pop in on them whenever he had a spare moment, always finding a way to make them laugh, often taking on characters or luring them to engage in some nonsensical game. Or maybe just talking sports.
On the Fourth of July five years ago, Aaron met his wife, Tiffani. Their instant chemistry led to an invitation for her to join him at the Youth Documentary Academy’s year-end screening. They continued to bond over their love of Hitchcock, and quickly realized what a great team they made -- proof positive when she celebrated with the Burns family as the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. They married three years later.
When not spending time with his family, Aaron could frequently be found on public transportation, often on his way to play racquetball, his favorite hobby. (A hobby he shared early on with Tiffani.) He sought out trains and buses in every city he lived. Aaron was also an avid reader and loved a wide variety of music.
Aaron is survived by his wife Tiffani Davis, father Morris, brother David, brother Nathan (wife Liz, nephew Miller), and brother Joel (wife Regan, niece Madden, nephew Declan). All reside in Denver. Aaron was preceded in death by his mother Frances.
A memorial service will be held at 6 pm on Friday, September 17 at Balistreri Vineyards at 1946 E 66th Ave, Denver, CO 80229. (Program from 6-7 pm, food & drinks from 7-10:30 pm.)
In lieu of flowers, donations are welcome for Youth Documentary Academy and ROS1ders (in support of ROS1-positive cancer research).