Wilmington – Dr. Rae De Francesco Burton, age 94, passed away peacefully at her home on May 19, 2021. The daughter of the late Vito and Antonetta De Francesco, she was born and raised in New Haven, Connecticut. Rae received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Science from Central Connecticut College, followed by a Master’s Degree from Yale University. She later earned a Doctor of Education Degree from Nova University. Rae also was a recipient of two Fulbright Scholarships: The first supported a year of teaching in England, where she met the love of her life, JR Antony (“Tony”) Burton; a later Fulbright Scholarship allowed her to travel to and learn about South Korea.
A lifelong educator and counselor, Rae dedicated her professional life to helping students reach their full potential. She nurtured, supported, and inspired countless students in Delaware and beyond, from middle schools to high schools and even at the university level. She began her career in Delaware at Warner Junior High School (1955), but most of her professional life was dedicated to counseling and administration at Delaware high schools, including Howard High School, Delcastle Tech, Pierre S. Du Pont High School, and Concord High School. She completed this phase of her professional life as Assistant Principal of Brandywine High School in 1991.
Throughout her life, both professional and personal, Rae was deeply committed to the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and she played an instrumental role in advancing those values both in Delaware public schools and through her active involvement in community organizations in the State and elsewhere.
Following her long and distinguished career in the public school system, Rae became a professor of education at Wilmington University, chairing the master’s program in school counseling. She formally retired from the University in 2004, but thereafter continued to teach and counsel students for over a decade. Evidence of her profound influence as an educator was on daily display throughout her life, as former students and colleagues repeatedly greeted her and expressed their gratitude for innumerable acts of encouragement, kindness, and support.
Rae was deeply engaged in her community. She was a member of Holy Rosary Parish and the Du Pont Country Club for over fifty years. She served as an advisor to the Claymont Community Center, and more recently was a founding member of ChristianaCare’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. She also had a unique gift for connecting with people and cultivated an amazingly broad and diverse network of friends. She loved to entertain and all were graciously welcomed in her home. Her personal passions were wide and deep, and included traveling the world, embracing culture and the arts, playing bridge, and celebrating her Italian heritage. Beyond all of this, she had an inquiring, open mind, was a voracious reader, and reveled in lively political discussions.
Her dear husband of 53 years, Tony, died in 2008. Rae is survived by two daughters, Barbara Burton Howard and Lisa Burton Van Alstine (Michael); two grandchildren, Jesika and Ryan Howard; two sisters-in-law, Rosemarie De Francesco and Joan De Francesco; and a close, extended family that includes numerous nieces and nephews. Rae also will be welcomed in heaven by six siblings: Rose, Sal, Anthony (“Tut”), Mike, Vito (“Lefty”), and Ray, as well as their loving spouses (Rose, Doris, and Joan).
Family and friends will gather for a celebration of life service on Thursday, June 17, at 11:00 a.m. at Holy Rosary Church, 3200 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont. (A separate gathering of family and friends will be held in Connecticut in the fall.)
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the endowment Rae and Tony created at Christiana Hospital to assist young adults with special needs to transition from pediatric to adult care: The JR Antony and Rae Burton Endowed Fund in Transition Care. Please contact the Center for Special Health Care Needs at ChristianaCare, Office of Development, 4000 Nexus Drive, Suite W3-300, Wilmington, DE 19803 or https://giving.christianacare.org.
For online condolences visit: www.mccreryandharra.com