NEW YORK — Gary J. Burns, 74, of Lake Forest, Ill., and Naples, Fla., passed away July 24. He was born Feb. 7, 1938, in Saginaw, Mich. Burns served in the U.S. Army and then embarked upon a long and successful career in the health and beauty aids industry.
Gary started his career with the Dr. Scholls Co., leaving to begin a master brokerage company, MDS, with Buck Prestidge, Joe Quinlan and a third partner. In 1975, he began Burns and Associates, a sales brokerage company in St. Louis specializing in health and beauty aid products. In 1985, he moved to Chicago and expanded the agency, selling consumer products and representing manufacturers in the 13 Midwestern states. In 1990, Gary also purchased Lake Pharmaceuticals, which later became Lake Consumer Products and ultimately sold that company to Wisconsin Pharmacal.
He hired Nick Christenson in 1993, who became his partner in 2000 to form Burns-Christenson & Associates. Gary eventually sold his share of the business to Christenson in 2007 and retired from the business. The company continues today as Christenson & Niwinski Inc., a successful Illinois regional brokerage.
Nick Christenson commented, "Gary was not only a mentor to me when I joined his agency, but also a true friend and the best man at my wedding. A brilliant businessman who built two very successful companies and did not believe the word 'no' existed ... a true legend in the industry. I will miss our many conversations about the business, our love of golf and will always have fond memories of the many trips we experienced together. He will be missed dearly by his many friends."
Jay Forbes, president of The Forbes Connection reflected on the fact that, "Gary was one of the good guys in our business - a long time friend, respected business entrepreneur and real gentleman - he was among the leaders in the brokerage community."
Burns is survived by his wife, Georgia; his two children, Kelley (Robert) Fahey and Samuel Burns; his stepdaughter Kari Hoerchler and his stepfather Joseph Johnroe.
Memorial contributions in Gary's name may be made to Northwestern Memorial Hospital / Lung Cancer Research, 251 East Huron St., Galter Pavilion, Suite 3-200, Chicago, Ill. 60611. Contributions also may be made to Rush University Medical Center / Lung Cancer Research, 1700 W. Van Buren St., Suite 250, Chicago, Ill. 60612.