Cover photo for Ben McLain Burns's Obituary
Ben McLain Burns Profile Photo

Ben McLain Burns

April 24, 1951 — July 3, 2024


Ben McLain Burns

Ben McLain Burns (73) of Waynesville, NC passed away on July 3, 2024.

Ben was born in Auburn, AL in 1951 and grew up in Knoxville, TN during his youth and teenage years. He graduated from Bearden High School in 1969 then pursued higher education at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 1974. He then worked in the agriculture branch of International Harvester/Case International and Kubota in the finance division, eventually retiring after decades of hard work in this industry. 

Ben found joy in simple pleasures. He treasured his family above all else and looked forward to the annual Burns Family Reunion, which his parents started and Ben attended faithfully for 57 years. He was a fan of all activities that included his children and grandchildren. Ben coached many seasons of his girls’ little league softball teams and would spend a great deal of his free time playing catch with his daughters in the backyard. He was a savant when it came to numbers, most notably sports statistics and all things history. He had a unique talent for remembering important dates and details that endeared him to those around him; not many birthdays passed without a call, text, or card from Ben.

Ben was also one of the most loyal and passionate fans of his beloved Tennessee Volunteers. Rest assured he would be wearing something orange every day (including at Sunday church), and often greeted those who called him with a spirited “Rocky Top Tennessee.” He served as a deacon at First Baptist Church in Sumter, SC, was a member of First Baptist Church in Greenwood, MS, was a member of First United Methodist Church in Watkinsville, GA for 30 years, and at the time of his passing was an active member of First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, NC. He was a Christian man who knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. He volunteered countless years of his life serving others through his church activities and really relished his role of being the coffee steward in between church services at Watkinsville First United Methodist Church.

Ben is preceded in death by his parents Joe Dan and Faye McLain Burns of Knoxville, TN.

 He is survived by his loving wife of 51 years, Janet Jeffcoats Burns, daughters Katie Burns Jones (Andrew) of Raleigh, NC; Holly Burns Freeling (Scott) of Simsboro, LA; Sarah Burns (Charlie Grady) of Cary, NC. His five grandchildren were a special joy to his heart: Jackie (15) & McLain (13) Jones; Robert Joe Freeling (13); and Sayleigh (12) & Canon (10) Reilly. He is also survived by his uncle Bob Burns (92) of Greer, SC; sister Becky Burns Waters of Knoxville, TN; nephew Mark Joseph Waters (Kristin) and their son Hunter Waters (10 months) of Candler, NC.

Ben McLain Burns will be remembered fondly as a devoted family man, a dedicated professional, and a kind-hearted soul who touched the lives of many. Known for his gentle nature and sociable demeanor, Ben had a special gift for making others feel comfortable in his presence. He will be deeply missed, but his memory will live on through the countless lives he has impacted and touched. And his spirit will go on through the lives of his beloved family.

His family will be holding a memorial service for Ben at a later date and will update friends and family via this site. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in Ben’s honor to the Joe and Faye Burns Memorial Endowment, 114 Morgan Hall, 2621 Morgan Circle, Knoxville, TN 37996.

The care of Mr. Burns has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Waynesville, NC and an online memorial register is available at “Obituaries” at


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