Cover photo for T. D. Burns's Obituary
T. D. Burns Profile Photo

T. D. Burns

April 22, 1926 — December 18, 2023


T. D. Burns


             CHARLOTTE – On Monday, December 18, 2023, Mr. Thomas David “TD” Burns finished his earthly life of 97 years and began his Heavenly life at Novant Health Matthews.


            Funeral services will be 5:00PM Thursday, December 21, 2023, in the Chapel of Leavitt Funeral Home in Wadesboro.


            Visitation will be one hour prior to the service at the funeral home on Thursday.


            Interment will be at 11:00 AM,  Friday, December 22, 2023, in Sharon Memorial Park in Charlotte.


            TD was the son of the late Charles Harvey Burns and the late Ruth Graves Burns. He loved growing up in Wadesboro, NC and, after graduating from Wadesboro High school in 1944, entered the United States Navy, serving in the Pacific during, World War II aboard the USS LSM 299, an amphibious landing ship.


            In 1947, he married the “love of his life”, Jean Whisnant, from Salisbury and they began a wonderful and exciting life together.


            TD became interested in the hobbies of mineralogy, paleontology, and astronomy which he and Jean both enjoyed. With only a high school education, and an insatiable desire for knowledge in all fields of science, he became extensively self-educated through research and study.


In 1961, he and Jean opened America’s first “all science” retail hobby store, Science Hobbies on Central Avenue in Charlotte. Offering products related to astronomy, biology, chemistry, mineralogy, paleontology and most natural sciences, their store quickly became the number one source of materials for school assigned projects throughout the region. With his encouraging words and the knowledge, he had acquired, TD was a valuable resource to the students as well. He also served as a judge at the Piedmont Science Fair for several years.


Following 22 years in their very successful retail venture, they sold it and began their second business, Science & Nature Distributors, a wholesale distribution business, supplying related merchandise to gift shops in museums, planetariums, aquariums, nature centers and retail science stores all over the United States and several foreign countries. After a few years, this business was sold and moved to Yarmouth, Maine where it continued to expand with eventually 65 employees.


Science Educational Products, a product development company, was the name of the third business they began operating in Matthews. TD created science products and kits which were distributed through the new owners of their previous company. He designed and photographed a Minerals Poster, wrote and illustrated a Rock and Mineral Coloring Book from specimens in their private collection that were published and sold nationally by Dover Publishing Company of New York. He also wrote and illustrated four science activity books for children under the titles of Astronomy, Chemistry, Rocks & Minerals, and Insects. Being a writer, TD published several non-fiction books, and a novel, A Matter of the Heart. He frequently wrote articles for newspapers, magazines and newsletters to WW II fellow seamen and his high school alumni group.


Inventor was added to his list of achievements when he invented, patented and marketed an operating model of an atom, demonstrating visually how all electromagnetic energy is created from within the structure of atoms. In recognition of his many creative contributions to the fields of science, Wadesboro’s Planetarium and Science Center honored him with North Carolina’s Top Scientist Award in 2016. Although not a member, The Wadesboro Rotary Club honored him with the national, Paul Harris Fellow plaque and medal which read, “In appreciation of the tangible assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding among people of the world.”


By 2019, the knowledge of his achievements had expanded nationwide and was recognized by Albert Nelson Marquis, “Who’s Who in American,” and when he received the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” only six people in America had received it. In 2021, TD was honored to receive “The Order of The Long Leaf Pine”, the highest award can receive from the North Carolina Governor’s office.


In addition to his parents, TD was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 67 years, Jean and his brothers and sister, Charles Burns, Melvin Burns, Herbert Burns and Ruth Tyson.


He leaves behind his extended family and caregivers, Terry Brown and Dorothy Grubb.


TD’s family and caregivers would like to express their gratitude to Dr. Eva Agocs and the medical staff at Novant Health Matthews for the exemplary care they provided him.


In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Anson County Historical Society, 206 E. Wade St., Wadesboro, NC 28170 or to Eastview Cemetery Trust, P.O. Box 274, Wadesboro, NC 28170.


The arrangements are in care of Leavitt Funeral Home and online condolences may be made at

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of T. D. Burns, please visit our flower store.

Past Services


Thursday, December 21, 2023

4:00 - 5:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Funeral Service

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Starts at 5:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Friday, December 22, 2023

Starts at 11:00 am (Eastern time)

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