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Thomas Burnett Sr. became a nationally recognized voice for justice after his son died trying to stop one of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Thomas Burnett Jr. and other passengers on Flight 93 became heroes by forcing their way into the cockpit and preventing the Boeing 757 from reaching its destination — thought to be either the U.S. Capitol or the White House.

Believing the best way to fight terrorism was through education and active citizenship, Burnett Sr. pushed for those who sponsored terrorism to be held accountable. And he served on the committee that judged the final designs for a memorial in Shanksville, Pa., where the plane went down.

"He was very influential in that," said Burnett's daughter, Martha Pettee. "He wanted to do something and honor my brother."

After suffering congestive heart failure compounded by COVID-19, Burnett, of Bloomington, died Feb. 24 at the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis. He was 93.

The gregarious Burnett built a deep network of relationships tied together through stories. He always had a tale to tell, and took time to listen to others' stories, too, those who knew him said.

For nearly 30 years, Burnett brought a love of literature and teaching to his work as a language arts teacher in Richfield Public Schools. He worked to help students improve reading skills, in the summers running a reading school at Camp Lincoln in Nisswa, Minn.

"He did wonderful things for kids," said Leo Poehling, who taught with Burnett at the former East Junior High. "He was committed to the kids. He was dedicated to what he did."

Burnett also founded the Minnesota Reading Center to teach adults and executives from major corporations to read more efficiently, Pettee said.

Burnett was an excellent student himself. As a kindergartner in Mason City, Iowa, he was named the best student at Holy Family Catholic School and was rewarded with a rolltop desk, his daughter said.

After high school graduation, he went on to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. He took time off to serve as a corporal in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, teaching others "to shoot the big artillery," Pettee said.

He later earned an education degree from the University of Minnesota before signing on to teach in Richfield.

Burnett lived with his wife, Beverly, in Bloomington for more than 50 years. The couple were founding members of the Church of St. Edward.

A lover of the outdoors, Burnett was part of the "No Road Through 94" group that worked to stop plans to extend 94th Street through a portion of the Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park Reserve, Pettee said.

In the wake of his son's death, Burnett established the Tom Burnett Leadership Program and the Tom Burnett Scholarship at the U's Carlson School of Management, as well as a scholarship at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minn. Every year, $1,000 scholarships are awarded to seniors at Kennedy and Jefferson high schools in Bloomington.

"He would give you the shirt off his back," Poehling said. "He was kind, generous and considerate, and very loyal to his friends."

Burnett is survived by daughters Martha Pettee of St. Paul and Mary Margaret Jurgens of Excelsior. Services have been held.