Cover photo for Elmer "Gene" Burton's Obituary
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Elmer "Gene" Burton

January 11, 1925 — January 28, 2017

Elmer "Gene" Burton

Elmer Gene Burton, 92, passed into eternal realms, January 28, 2017, at Mt. Olympus Care Center, Murray, Utah.  He was born January 11, 1925, in Pocatello, Idaho to loving parents Joseph Harold Burton and Loula Alice Downing Burton.  He had two older brothers Gale Downing Burton, and Joseph Harold Burton II.  He started his first jazz band when he was 14 which included his talented brother Joe who played the piano.

During High School he had a popular jazz band. He graduated from Pocatello High School in 1942. At different times throughout his life he would reestablish his own band.

He was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served in various church positions earlier in life.

During WWII, he trained extensively as a fighter pilot of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, graduating 2nd in his class, and became a 2nd then 1st lieutenant.  When his squadron was scheduled to escort B-29’s to help fight the war against Japan, as he was about to take off, it was announced that the war had ended! Just prior to the end of the war he married Eleene Rogers on July 13, 1945 in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he received his pilot’s wings. (They later divorced.) In the 1940’s he tried out for The Horace Heidt touring radio talent show (equivalent to today’s American Idol TV show) and won playing Jalousie. Horace Heidt said in an interview that, “…your young saxophonist Gene Burton has the finest tone I’ve heard anywhere.” After the audition Horace Heidt offered Gene a job to join his band on a 9 month European tour. He and trumpeter Al Hirt became friends on the tour. In these years he enjoyed family vacations, running his own band, playing clarinet in the city band, and getting ice cream with his family. From 1954 to 1964 his primary occupation was as an insurance adjuster. Gene also played with the renowned Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Henry and Harry James Orchestras and toured the United States, Japan, and Europe. He also played with many major stage bands in Las Vegas and also Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.

Later in life he continued to perform and played with the Utah Phoenix Band and Wasatch Symphony. He also organized a band called the Sax Machine and continued playing into his 80s. As a gifted musician he played alto, tenor, baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute and piano. He was an accomplished music arranger. He loved playing at the Senior Citizens Center in SLC, so anyone who wanted to could listen to or dance to the music. When he could no longer drive himself, his dear friend Edna Lamm, made sure he got there and she served exceptionally as the band’s manager. For several years before his death he was cared for by his loving daughter Kay and her husband Tim Benedict in their home when he could no longer live on his own.

He was preceded in death by his brother, Gale, 1 grandchild, and 5 great-grandchildren. He is survived by his brother Joe Burton. His living posterity includes 7 children, Nancy Lear, (Darrell), Kay Benedict (Tim), Anne Oborn, (Garth), Paula Ricks (Jay), David Burton (Kendra), Doug Burton (Tracy), and Glen Burton. At the day of his death, he had 39 grandchildren, 126 great-grandchildren, 7 great-great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held February 4, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at Manning-Wheatley Funeral Chapel, 510 N. 12th Ave., Pocatello, Idaho.  The family will receive friends one hour prior to services.  Interment will be in Restlawn Memorial Gardens (2864 S, 5th Ave) with Military Rites provided by the Pocatello Veterans Honor Guard

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