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Burton C. McGowan, 87, St Albans

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Burton C. McGowan, 87, St Albans


Saint Albans - Burton C. McGowan, 87, devoted husband, career military, avid skeet shooter, instructor and promoter of the shooting sports, passed away on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

He was born on June 8, 1932, in St. Albans, at the hospital where the St. Albans Messenger is now located, one of two sons of Charles Merton and Mildred Olive Sweeny McGowan. His boyhood home was along Route 104, next to the St. Albans reservoir, where his father’s garage was located. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1954 and was assigned to duty as a mechanic at Smoky Hill Air Force Base, now known as Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, KS based on the skills he’d learned at his father’s garage. Because of his prowess at skeet, he was selected by a B29 pilot to be his tail-gunner and, following training at Randolph Air Base in Texas, was reassigned to this duty. The Korean war ended before Burt was deployed overseas. After four years in the Air Force, he was discharged on December 29, 1958 and found work surveying and truck driving. It was in Kansas that he met Phyllis Whelchel, who became his first wife. He taught Phyllis to shoot and she quickly became very proficient. He and Phyllis shot in many skeet matches and frequently won both the men’s and women’s matches. His prowess at skeet led to his meeting many of the top shooters in the country.

In 1966 He and Phyllis moved to Vermont and settled in Fairfax. He enlisted in the Army National Guard and took up full time duty as a recruiter. Many of the men and women he recruited became lifelong friends. During his term as recruiter he won the Chief’s 50 award as the top recruiter in the state. He was discharged from the guard at age 65 on July 1, 1994, with the rank of Sergeant First Class.

His love of skeet prompted him to introduce the sport to Vermont. He was a founding member of the Sportsmen’s Club of Franklin County and of the Underhill Rod & Gun Club. He was personally responsible for setting up the first skeet field in the state, at the Franklin County Sportsmen’s Club, then located at the foot of Hard’ack Hill in St. Albans. As the first state NSSA director, he organized, promoted and won the first skeet match in Vermont. He also organized and won the first black powder skeet match in the state. He and Phyllis continued to compete in state championship skeet matches in Vermont and other states.

He had a lifelong love for fine shotguns, automobiles and flying. Over the years, he had a number of fine cars, amassed a collection of shotguns and loved having the opportunity to go flying.

In 1998 Phyllis passed away. Bereft of his partner, he moved to Florida where he continued to shoot skeet. He later returned to Vermont and promptly joined the Vermont State Guard, where he rose to the rank of Command Sergeant-Major of First Battalion, based in St. Albans. He continued to recruit for the Vermont State Guard and was still a member at the time of his passing.

In 2016 he met Ruby Jones and the two became friends. In October, 2018 they were married in St. Albans and made their home there. In his later years, he could no longer shoot but he loved to go to the skeet range to watch, visit with other shooters and reminisce about his life of shooting.

He is survived by his wife, Ruby, his step-children Brenda (Jones) Gray and her husband Tim and their daughters Samantha and Jennifer, Rick Jones and his daughters Ashleigh and Jada, Cheryl (Jones) Vance and her husband Jeff and their sons Chad and Steven, Chad’s daughter Zakyia, and David Jones, his brother Dorian McGowan of East Burke, retired as a Professor of Art at Lyndon State College and his children Nicholas, Kaya, Tara, and Martin, his cousin Dan Gilbert and his wife Pearl, as well as many friends.

A graveside memorial service including Military honors and a Masonic Service is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, June 30, 2020, at 2:00 PM at the family lot in St. Luke Cemetery, Route 104 in Fairfax.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Franklin Lodge 4 F&AM in care of Gerald Morong, Secretary, 76 Prospect Hill Road, St. Albans, VT 05478, or the Shriners Children’s Hospital, 51 Blossom Street, Boston, MA 02114, or Green Mountain Post 1, American Legion, 100 Parah Drive, St. Albans, VT 05478, or the Underhill Rod & Gun Club, P. O. Box 23, Westford, VT 05494 and to the Sportsmen’s Club of Franklin County, P. O. Box 150, St. Albans Bay, VT 05481.


Heald Funeral Home


April 2, 2020


Nancy Remsen and Fred Pond

Spatial Coverage



Heald Funeral Home, “Burton C. McGowan, 87, St Albans,” COVID-19 Archive, accessed July 12, 2024,