In loving memory of

Joseph Stephen Burris
April 18, 1942 - January 1, 2022

Live Stream Link For Funeral Service

Joseph Stephen Burris, 79, of Ames, passed away peacefully at home on January 1, 2022. A celebration of his life will be held 2:00 pm Friday, Jan 14, at the First United Methodist Church, 516 Kellogg Ave., Ames, IA, with visitation following in the church multipurpose room.

Joseph was born April 18, 1942, to Charles R. and Catherine (Pravica) Burris in Cleveland, OH. Joe grew up in Lyndhurst, OH, graduating from Brush High School in 1960. He earned a B.S. from Iowa State University in 1964 and Ph.D. in agronomy/biochemistry from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1968. He joined the Botany Dept. at ISU as a seed physiologist in 1968. During his 31 year career at ISU, he advised and mentored over 40 graduate students, many of whom became lifelong friends and colleagues in the seed industry. Joe counted among his professional accomplishments collaboration with the architect in design and construction of the original Seed Science Center on the ISU campus, significant contribution to the design and success of modern seed drying technology, and scientific understanding of seed quality. Joe was very active in professional societies. Upon retirement, he worked as a consultant to the seed and vegetable industry in many parts of the world.

In 1963 Joe married Judith Burkley and together they had four children, Jeffrey (1966), John (1968), Jennifer (1969), and Jason (1973). He enthusiastically supported his children and then grandchildren at track, cross country meets, baseball, basketball and softball games, theatre performances, piano and dance recitals. He strategically planned family vacations, mapping out road trips across the country. Joe could fix or build anything he was challenged to do. And by his actions, Joe taught his children and grandchildren to be curious, self-reliant and engaged.

In 1999, Joe married Joan Peterson. They loved traveling, both to explore new places and to visit family and friends. He was an accomplished wood worker and enjoyed making custom furniture for his home and his children's homes. In later years, he learned and enjoyed wood turning, and loved giving his bowls to family and friends.

We will miss many things about Joe, including his wry sense of humor, his love for the underdog, his ability to be present when he was with you, and how he loved his family and friends.

Joe was preceded in death by his parents, sister, Barbara Joye, brother, Charles, all of Ohio. Those surviving are his sister in law, Hilda Burris, wife, Joan, children, Jeff (Natalie) of Cedar Falls, IA, John (Verushka) of Niwot, CO, Jennifer (Gregg Garn) of Norman, OK, and Jason of Green Bay, WI, grandchildren Nathan and Joel Burris, Morgan and Kevin Burris, and Kathryn, Dylan and Allyson Garn. Also step children Erich (Allison) of Mahomet, IL, Audra (Jonathan Hall) of Morgantown, WV, Giles (Jelena Saric, significant other) of Chicago, IL, and Julia Slocum of Ames, IA, and step grandchildren Pearce and Presley Slocum and Simone and Oscar Hall.

In lieu of flowers, memorials in Joe's name may be directed to the Iowa Arboretum, 1875 Peach Ave, Madrid, IA, 50156, or Mary Greeley Hospice Home Care and Israel Family Hospice House, 400 S. Dakota Ave., Ames, IA, 50014.

Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Grandon Funeral and Cremation Care, Ames, IA. The family wishes to extend grateful thanks to the Mary Greeley Hospice Home Care nurses and staff for their wonderful support and care.

Online condolences may be sent to


Marti Steelman wrote on Jan 18, 2022:

"I am saddened to hear of Joe's passing. I was the secretary for one of the committees he chaired in the Agronomy Department and enjoyed working with him. Joan my thoughts are with you. "

Beth Wunder wrote on Jan 14, 2022:

"It is with real reluctance that I send this message today instead of delivering it personally. I just don?t go out on snowy days anymore, and I am so sorry to miss seeing all of you and sharing hugs and memories and my condolences. In my mind I still see Joe?s beautiful smile and hear his laughter. Your family and ours have been friends for so many years, and Joe has been a good friend,especially when Bill?s health was failing. I?m so sorry that due to Covid I didn?t know he was so ill or I would have visited somehow. You are in my thoughts and prayers."

Keith Bailey wrote on Jan 14, 2022:

" To Joe's family: I am so sorry for your loss. He and I had several good conversations following various church services. He will be missed by all who knew him. He was truly a GOOD MAN. "

Roberta (Robbie) Kerkove wrote on Jan 12, 2022:

"Joan and family, I am so sorry to hear of Joe's passing. He was such a good boss and always had a smile on his face. When I would see him and Joan, they always had a kind word to say. My sincere condolences and prayers are with you and the family at this difficult time and I will always remember him as giving me my job at the Iowa State Seed Science Center. "

Araceli Caballero wrote on Jan 12, 2022:

"Heartfelt condolences to Joan and family. We felt so thankful and proud to have known Cousin Joe. His visits with Joan and family members gave us unique and treasured opportunities to share Burris Family memories. He will be missed but never forgotten. Sending our love and prayers to all. Araceli and Rafael Caballero."

Tammy Toth wrote on Jan 12, 2022:

"My sincere condolences to Joan and the family. Joe was a really great guy, he always made me smile! Always a pleasure to visit with, he will be missed in so many ways. Thoughts and prayers to the family. Tammy Toth. "

Kelsey Gall wrote on Jan 11, 2022:

"I had the pleasure of meeting Joe in 2009 after I completed a cross-country bicycle trip with his step daughter, Julia. Joe and Joan welcomed me into their home as if I was their own long lost daughter. Joe and I relished over the fact that we both grew up in South Euclid/Lyndhurst, OH and graduated from Brush High School. And we met in Ames, IA of all places! Joe had a tremendous spirit and I am so glad I got to meet him and spend time with him. Sending all my love and hugs to Joe's family and friends and especially, Julia and Joan. My heart is with you. "

RUTH H HILL wrote on Jan 9, 2022:

"We are remembering our times with Joe at track meets and church activities and thinking of his family at this time. With sympathy, Jim and Ruth Hill"

Beth Wunder wrote on Jan 9, 2022:

"I was so surprised and saddened to learn Joe?s passing this morning. He was such a great person and friend for so many years, to both Bill and me. Our kids grew up together, sharing both family times and lots of track meets. I especially appreciated his reaching out to me after Bill died, and I have so enjoyed getting to know Joan these past years. sending love and prayers to all of you. Beth Wunder"

Norma, Michelle & Greg wrote on Jan 8, 2022:

"Our families always enjoyed visiting with Joe. Thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Norma Tripp, Michelle & Greg Stotts"

Kim Lewers wrote on Jan 7, 2022:

"Joe Burris was one of my favorite teachers. He played a key role in my graduate studies. I started graduate school more than 10 years after getting my BS and spent the time between almost entirely raising little children, not working at my career. I was excited to come back to school but quickly became terrified I couldn't meet the challenge. So much had changed, and I was badly out of shape mentally. He let me in his Seed Physiology class when I hadn't had the prerequisites. I was struggling in the first round of tests in my other classes and was soon convinced it was all a mistake to try to get a graduate degree. His class soon became my favorite, because he made it so interesting. I assumed I would get a poor grade on his first test and just hoped he wouldn't be too disappointed in me. But I got an "A"! I couldn't believe it. He told me I had done better than his own students. I shared with him the trouble I had been having in the other classes. He told me he thought I was just lacking confidence. I suppose he was right, because after that all my test grades shot up. I owe my graduate education to that moment of encouragement. I will always be grateful. Other wonderful people helped me along the way too, and I treasure them all, but Joe Burris was the first. And Joan, my heart breaks for you. I didn't realize you two had married. We moved away before that happened, I see. I often wondered what became of you two. I'm sorry I didn't keep in touch. It sounds like you have had a wonderful couple of decades, and I am so sorry it didn't last much much longer. To all the family, having Joe Burris as a father, father-in-law, or grandfather is a wonderful gift that has surely left it's mark on each of you and can never be lost. Many are not as fortunate. It will take a long time to get past the grief, but when you do, you will be left with gratitude and warming memories."

Carole Magilton wrote on Jan 5, 2022:

"Know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. A gifted man who willingly shared his many talents. Blessings, Carole Magilton"