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Ralph Burnett, 97

Ralph Burnett, 97, a resident of Woodstock since 1958, passed away peacefully from natural causes at home surrounded by his family on May 15, 2021.

He was born Nov. 14, 1923, on his family farm in Villa Grove, Illinois, to John (Don) and Edna Burnett and was raised alongside his two brothers (John and Mark) and his sister (Anne). He attended a one-room schoolhouse and received a degree in Agriculture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He joined the U.S. Army Air Force and served his nation in WWII. His plane was shot down over France during his second mission, and he spent nine months as a prisoner of war in Germany. Upon his return from the war, he married his college sweetheart, Anne Hines. He moved to Woodstock to serve as the local farm advisor and later became a prominent realtor for nearly 50 years, known throughout Illinois. In the latter half of his career, he worked for The Nature Conservancy and the McHenry County Conservation District and is responsible for procuring tens of thousands of acres now preserved by these organizations. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church, Woodstock, where he and Anne met many lifelong friends.

Ralph was happiest at his home in the countryside outside Woodstock and could often be found exploring local woods with family and friends. He spent many weekends doing what others would describe as backbreaking work outdoors for which he found great solace. He instilled a strong work ethic in his children and always will be remembered for his commitment to the conservation of land and keen negotiating skills. He dedicated a portion of his family farm to create the Edna Edwards Burnett Land and Water Reserve.

He is survived by his three children, Greg of Orlando, Fla; Gary (Wanda) of Potomac, Mont.; and Jeff (Kevin Bender) of Bull Valley; two grandchildren, Jason (Jenny) of Tigard, Ore., and Jamie (Corey) of Missoula, Mont.; and great-grandchildren Bodhi, Ryder and Jaxson.

He was preceded in death by his wife, brothers, sister and parents.

A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held later this year.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial gifts be made to Friends of Nachusa Grasslands,

For information, contact the Schneider Leucht Merwin Cooney Funeral Home at 815-338-1710, or visit

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