Robert Burnett Obituary

Robert A. Burnett
Robert A. Burnett

June 4, 1927 - February 7, 2018
Born in Joplin, MO
Resided in Des Moines, IA
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Robert Allen Burnett passed away at home on February 7, 2018, at peace and surrounded by family. Born June 4, 1927 in Joplin, Missouri to Lee and Pearl Burnett, Bob had one older sister, Marguerite. His parents owned a small hotel and coffee shop in downtown Joplin and coming out of the Depression, Bob spent a good deal of time at the hotel where he began honing his tremendous people and leadership skills.

Bob attended the University of Missouri at Columbia. He joined the U.S. Army his sophomore year and was discharged soon after the war ended. Bob returned to Mizzou to finish his undergraduate degree in economics and there, met the love of his life, Gloria Cowden. They married in 1948 and lived in Joplin and then Guthrie Center, Iowa, before moving to Des Moines, where Bob joined Meredith Publishing Company in 1952 as an advertising sales trainee.

Bob spent the next 40 years doing what he loved. Bob led Meredith through one of its greatest periods of growth and glory. He worked as a sales analyst, sales representative, sales manager in Cleveland, marketing manager in Des Moines and starting in 1961, as Better Homes and Gardens advertising director in New York. Bob was named President and CEO of Meredith Corporation in 1977 and in 1989 was named Chairman and CEO, a position he held until his retirement in 1992. Bob continued to serve on the board of directors until 1997.

Bob’s time at Meredith allowed him to practice his belief that simply loving and trusting his people would empower them to do the impossible. And they did.

Bob was a gifted, extemporaneous speaker, he nonetheless was an emphatic listener. Joy was the meat and potatoes of his existence; laughter was his constant companion. “Are we having fun yet?” was his battle cry.

During his business career and after retirement from Meredith, Bob continued to serve on numerous corporate boards in addition to Meredith Corp., including Iowa Power/Mid-American Energy, Iowa Des Moines National Bank/Norwest, Vernon Company, Iowa Select Farms, Berkeley/Pure Fishing, Dayton Hudson/Target, Alcatel, Whirlpool, Hartford Financial, ITT and ITT Industries.

Bob had a powerful sense of civic responsibility. He was a visionary and leader in the development of Des Moines and Iowa communities. He was a giver of time and resources, devoted to boards of Blank Park Zoo, Des Moines Community Foundation, Des Moines Art Center, Grinnell College and the Waterworks Park project, among others.

Above all, The Burnett Troops was Bob’s greatest joy and achievement. Guided by his life-long wife, Gloria, and dance partner of 66 years, “Pops and Gogo” made their homes in Des Moines, NYC and Carefree, Arizona a welcoming haven for family and friends.

Bob is survived by his six children: Robert Jr. (Barbara), Steve (Kristie), Greg (Cindy), Doug (Rochelle), David and Penny; by 11 grandchildren and a great-grandson. He was preceded in death by his wife Gloria, by his parents, his sister and brother-in-law, Bob Pike, and his sister-in-law, Geneva Knudson.

The ‘Burnett Dream Team’ made Bob’s independent life at home possible. Special thanks to Dr. Tim Ihrig, Deb Cosgrove, Lenita Bourne, Linda Huebner and Dan Pontow and so many others who have been devoted for so many years.

Visitation at Iles Dunn’s Chapel, 2121 Grand Ave., Des Moines, Iowa, will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, February 16. A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, February 17 at 11:00 a.m. at Plymouth Congregational Church, 4126 Ingersoll Ave., with a reception following at the Wakonda Club.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be directed to the Blank Park Zoo.


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Memorial Gathering
Dunn's Funeral Home
2121 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA US 50312
Friday, February 16, 2018
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Memorial Service
Plymouth Congregational Church
4126 Ingersoll Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50312
Saturday, February 17, 2018
11:00 AM
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Blank Park Zoo
7401 SW 9th Street
Des Moines, IA 50315