John Burlison

Happy and his partner Ron Dagani

John Stuart "Happy" Burlison
4 Mar 1951 - 18 Mar 2020
DC Lambda Squares
Attended GCA Caller School in 2008
Received 10 Year Medallion at Gone With The Windmill in 2011


BURLISON John Stuart Burlison of North Bethesda, MD, known to many as "Happy," died of complications from ampullary cancer on March 18, 2020, according to his spouse, Ron Dagani. John was born in Moscow, Idaho, on March 4, 1951. He attended high school in Potlatch, Idaho, and later graduated from the University of Idaho in Moscow with a B.S. degree in Speech Communication. He also studied at Illinois State University in Normal, Ill. John began his professional career as a technical editor and writer at Battelle-Northwest Laboratories in Richland, Wash. In 1983 he moved to Washington, DC, where he met Ron that same year. The two have resided together in Maryland since 1984. John worked for several government contractors in the Washington, DC area, most notably Computer Sciences Corp. and General Sciences Corp. He managed computer documentation for development groups in both companies and was active in the DC chapter of the Society for Technical Communication, serving a term as chapter president. John worked at Fannie Mae from 1997 until his retirement in 2007. In the 1990s, John served for many years on the board of the Free State Justice Campaign, an advocacy group for LGBT civil rights. He served two years as the co-chair of the organization, which played a pivotal role in the passage of anti-discrimination legislation in the Maryland Assembly. At the beginning of the 21st century, John took up square dancing with DC Lambda Squares, an LGBT square dance club in the nation's capital. Square dancing became a passion. He served on the DC Lambda Squares board for nine years, in just about every board position. He danced with square dance clubs in suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia. John also was an avid cyclist. He and a couple of friends have taken extended bicycle trips in the Appalachians, around Florida, up the East Coast from Key West to Halifax, and throughout central Europe. In addition to the cycling, he enjoyed sailing in the Caribbean, and he also trekked in Nepal. He loved to travel and was sometimes on the road for weeks at a time. John created the Vernon Burlison Memorial Fund in honor of his father at the University of Idaho. The fund supports LGBT programs at the university. In the early 1970s, John was baptized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was excommunicated in 1981, but reconciled to his faith in the last decade of his life. He attended the Kensington Ward in the Washington, DC Stake. John was the son of Vernon Henry Burlison and Prudence May Barrett. His step-mother was Dorothy Miller Clancy Finn Burlison. He married Susan Comstock Mauery in 1973. That marriage ended in divorce. He married Ron Dagani in 2013 on the 30th anniversary of their meeting. John was pre-deceased by his brother, Vernon Burlison, Jr. In addition to Ron, John is survived by his siblings (Grace Burlison Wallace, Frank Burlison, Katherine Clancy, Stephen Burlison, Patricia Finn, and John Michael Finn), his four children (Timothy Mauery, Sarah Mauery Foutz, Vernon Mauery, and Mary Mauery Haeberle), and twenty-three grandchildren. John leaves behind many people who cherished him, including family members, LGBT friends, square dancers, and fellow saints in the Kensington Ward. A celebration of his life will be scheduled at a later date.
- Published in The Washington Post on Mar. 24, 2020

Ron noted that Happy wrote the obit himself.


From Happy's partner Ron Dagani:
Happy had been sleeping comfortably around the clock for the past three days. His hospice nurse came to check on him this afternoon. About six hours later, while I was at his side in the bedroom, he took his last breath.
I posted the following on Facebook tonight:

JOHN STUART BURLISON March 4, 1951 – March 18, 2020 My sweet, gentle angel got his wings Wednesday evening. I’m sure he will be bringing joy and happiness to the next world just as he brought to mine. Rest in peace, Happy! I will love you always. We are planning a celebration of his life, but due to the coronavirus outbreak, it's unclear right now when we will be able to hold it. Stay tuned.

From Chesapeake Squares:

Dear Friends, A sad note. Many of you will remember John ("Happy", "Happy Doodle") Burlison from his many years of square dancing in the Washington/Baltimore region. He always brought a sense of fun and joie de vivre to dancing with an extra added a la mode scoop of silliness on the side. His smile was contagious and his spirit radiant. His tenderness as a human being he offered to us unsparingly. We will miss you, old buddy. Deepest condolences to Ron and all who had the privilege to know Happy. From all of us at Chesapeake Squares.
Scott MacLeod, President

From Ett McAtee, President of GCA:
everyone, I am very sad to say that one of our own died this past Wednesday of a long bout with pancreatic cancer, Happy Doodle. Happy Doodle (John Burlison) died Wednesday. You may remember dancing with him at Ettseteras, DC Lambda Squares, many fly-ins, and at convention. His smile always radiated, and his kindness to others was unmatched. He was a long-time member of the DC Lambda Squares and served as their president for a short time. If you'd like, you can send a card to Happy's partner, Ron: Ron Dagani 11400 Strand Dr. Apt 407 Rockville, MD 20852

Ron says that once the COVID danger is over, we will have a Celebration of Life gathering to remember Happy and share our stories of how he touched us all. Be safe, be well, and tell your loved ones that you do love them, every day. (apologies to those who see this message a few times) Ett

From Ett McAtee:
I remember a long time ago at Rehoboth, I had to ask Happy if that was his real name. He always WAS so happy and full of smiles and life and funny stories... I found out he did have a real name... RIP. John. We all love you to pieces....