Couple dies in crash

Hours before a Grand Haven couple died in a crash on snowy roads, their son waved good-bye to them, unknowingly, for the last time.
Becky Vargo
Jan 27, 2014

Luke (Lewis Jr.) Burns, 55, and Gayle Burns, 53, were on their way home Saturday night from a friend’s house where they had gathered for dinner after a meeting of elders from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Grand Haven.

Their son, Lewis III, said they visited a home in Robinson Township.

“I talked to my Mom probably at 5 p.m.,” he said. “They stopped here to change clothes before going out there. I waved to my Mom through the window.”

“We had a get-together as we often do,” said Adam Rogers, another elder. “We shut things down kind of early. Everybody was concerned about the bad weather.”

Rogers said there was a shuffling of vehicles before the Burnses left.

“I stood there at the door for a while talking to Luke,” he said. “I said, ‘Be safe.’ I backed out my truck and watched them drive away.”

Moments later Rogers said he got a call from another couple taking the same route. They wanted him to get in touch with Luke, because the car in the crash at Mercury Drive and Robbins Road looked like the car the Burnses drive.

Rogers said he made the call, but no one answered.

Police said Gayle Burns was driving their Chevrolet Cobalt northwest toward Grand Haven on Mercury Drive shortly after 8 p.m. Saturday, when the car spun out of control on the slippery, snowy roads. A pickup truck broadsided the passenger side of the Burnses' car.

Gayle was pronounced dead at the scene. Firefighters extricated Luke from the car. He was taken by ambulance to North Ottawa Community Hospital before being transferred to Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, where he died shortly after midnight.

The driver of the pickup truck, Scott Miller, was heading southeast on Mercury Drive and said he was unable to avoid the collision. He did not suffer injuries in the crash.

Passersby stopped to offer what help they could, and local residents responded to the news with prayers for those involved and their family members. Friends wrote on the Tribune's website about how the community has lost tremendously wonderful people.

“They were just two of the most kind, wonderful, funny people you could meet,” Jasmine Rogers said.

“Gayle had a contagious laugh,” she said. “Luke was very humble.”

As emergency workers tried to rescue the couple and later cleared the scene, Adam Rogers said someone from the group went to couple's house. They saw a sheriff's cruiser there.

“We knew it wouldn’t be good," he said.

The Burnses had moved in and out of the area a couple of times. They originally lived in the West Virginia and southern Ohio areas.

“I think they were here because of her father,” Rogers said.

Luke worked for many years at an automotive parts supplier in the Holland area, Rogers said. In recent years he had been attending culinary school at Grand Rapids Community College.

“He was just about to finish,” Rogers said. “He was doing his internship.”

Gayle did commercial cleaning, he said.

“She was working part time – really to support her ability to support this ministry,” Rogers said. “Luke and his wife were what we called a full-time pioneer (minister.) ...They would devote – each of them – 70-plus hours a month in that particular work."

“That was the central focus of their lives – to assist people in the community that way,” he added. “Gayle and Luke talked to people about their hope for the future and their hope for the way they want to be.”

That’s what they did, their son said.

“They were full-time volunteers in the community," Lewis said. “They were good people.”

Lewis lived with his parents in their home at Village Green.

“We were really close,” he said. “We took vacations together. We played cards almost every night.”

Lewis said they always made sure they ate a meal together and read Bible verses every day.

“We had a family meeting every week to go over what was going on in our lives,” he said.

Their friend Adam Rogers said the couple were super friendly and easy to be around.

“They were some of the most fun, likeable people you would want to know," he said. "They were not pretentious and were humble to the core.”

Rogers said Luke could “take a delicate situation and interject only what Luke could do and kind of change the way things fell. He was a good man.”

“It’s a huge void,” he said about the loss of his friends. “All of our congregation is made up of a variety of personalities. Theirs was one that was needed.”

Rogers said it was a little surreal to think about.

“But the Bible said that time and unforeseen occurrences befall us – some things we can’t control,” he said. “We grieve, but at the same time we have real hope that we will see them again."



This is really sad. Condolence for the both of the couple.


Thank you for the kindness you and yours showed my brother Luke and his wife Gayle. He was our baby brother. Luke had four sisters growing up and he being the the only brother and the youngest. Let me say that we girls really reared him. He had bossy sisters. As we all became adults we always let him know we were sorry every single time we'd see him for the stunts we pulled on him. In our eyes he was the closest thing to being a saint! They were a loving caring couple that loved each other. Married as teens and loved life. Lewie, their son was the love of their life. Very close family. We are so saddened by the loss of two family members that I am lost for words to express this pain. As I write about this with tears streaming I just want to thank their friends and church family for all you are doing at this time, especially for our nephew. We appreciate all of you and will see you in Michigan soon. Also thanks to the reporter who wrote true and comforting words. Prayers needed


My condolences and prayers for your family. May God comfort you in your time of grief.


To our wonderful brother and sister who lost there the family..our sincere condolences...from the West Congregation in Hutchinson,KS No matter where we our earthwide...our hearts break when we hear when one of our spiritual brothers or sisters lose there lives...and we have 2 that have...our prayers go out to the family and the whole Congregation....we love all...And soon we all can be in the paradise earth and this scripture is
...Rev. 21:4...and how wonderful that time will be...thinking about the family and prayers to u


I just lost my Mom to cancer 3 weeks ago. She was baptized in 1960. Even though we knew in advance that the cancer would take her, it still hurts. I also lost my 16 y/o nephew who lived with us to drowning in the Sandy river 5 years ago. Losing family in unforeseen occurrences is harder to come to terms with, in my humble view. My prayers are for the family for Jehovah's loving support. I will be looking to meet them both in the resurrection! Again, I am saddened for your loss. Barbara Myers, Portland, Or ASL congregation


My heart goes out to the family and friends of Gayle & Luke Burns. I never knew them but they were my brother and sister and I mourn for them. I'm sure they were wonderful people and I sure look forward to the resurrection when I hope to meet them. I am so sorry for your loss. Lana Laidlaw, St. Helens, OR congregation


Lewis was one of my students. I looked forward to coming to work and seeing his smile. I feel blessed to have met him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.


Our dear Bro & Sis...May Jehovah's spirit comfort their family and close friends in this time of grief. Albeit, I do not personally know Bro.Luke & Bro Gayle Burns, we are a spiritual family. No matter how many times we hear of one our spiritual brothers dieing, when loss of life is tragically taken, It seem to be the hardest to cope with. Even though we have full confidence in Jehovah's promise at Rev. 21:4...our hearts weigh heavy when one of our spiritual brothers are affected by the same unforeseen occurrences as every other person on this earth. We are patient, yet we eagerly await "..God's Kingdom to come on earth as it is in the heavens" (Matt. 6:10)Miriam Barnes, Spring,TX Cypresswood congregation


May Jehovah comfort all the friends and family that are grieving. We look forward to the hope and comfort that is promised in the Bible. Are prayer are with you all. Russell and Marlina Boyd, Sugar Hill, GA, congregation.


I am so sorry to hear of this awful event. I am a brother in Paw Paw,MI. My prayers go out to the family.

I was reading the report and noticed the car they were driving was a Chevy Cobalt. GM is recalling this car for sudden power loss causing accidents. not sure if it applies but you may be able to check into that.

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