To all of our guests: Elaine, Michele and I, and our families, thank you for being here.
A business mentor of mine said this about life: “In the end, what matters most in life are the depth of the relationships with friends and family, and the sheer number of people you’ve helped along the way. These represent true measures of wealth. Financial wealth, then, is seen as a resource for fostering your relationships.”
The relationships that Frank has fostered and the sheer number of people he has helped is unmeasurable. He was a man who unselfishly dedicated his life to serving others while always putting their needs before his own.
In his early 20s, Frank was working his way through college as the Director of Recreation in the maximum-security unit of the Biggs building in Fulton. Frank had quickly developed a relationship with one of the hospital attendants that played in a local band. He decided it would be great to have the band come into the Biggs building to play for the patients just before Christmas. The band consisted of 4 men of all ages; a fiddle player, a banjo player, and a couple guitar players. A 5th member of the band was a talented and attractive young woman who would play the piano. She was escorted by her parents who were rightfully concerned about their daughter playing the piano in a maximum-security unit.
The woman playing the piano was named Elaine. About a month after the band performed, Frank finally got up the nerve to ask Elaine out on a date and she decided to accept. She would go on to spend the next 56 years making memories with him. Dad always loved to tell the story about how he met the love of his life, and wife of 53 years, in prison.
The state hospital in Fulton wasn’t done shaping Frank’s life though. Shortly after this, he accepted a position with the State Youth Center. Here, he was tasked with helping juvenile youth that were locked up and working to get help so they might have a chance to reenter society. One evening he was the first on the scene to find a young boy hanging by his neck from a sheet. The young boy had committed suicide, and Frank’s life purpose would be defined. This event charted him on a course dedicated to serving abused, neglected, and troubled youth. God had big plans for this gifted man to make a positive impact on thousands of people.
Dad had an incredible work ethic and didn’t require much sleep. He was an early riser and always wanted to get a jump on his day. He grew up with a loving mother and father, but with very little money. He was determined to provide his wife and his family better financial opportunities than he had himself.
Dad loved to use humor, stories and metaphors to teach. His father died before I was born, but it’s obvious through the stories Dad told me that his father was much the same way. Dad told me a story several times about when he was a kid hoeing in the garden with his father. He was talking to his father about how he was going to make a better life for himself. In reality, he was complaining about having to work in the garden. Dad’s father had lived during the great depression and as a result was forced to quit school in the 5th grade in order to go to work. Encouraging his young son to make a better life than him, Dad’s father said: “son, as you go thru life, you can do whatever you put your mind to, but until then, keep hoeing.” The message was simple; whatever you do, regardless of the job, give it your very best and don’t quit until you’ve got something better to do.
To his very last days, Dad’s life was instructive. He was always learning while also sharing his many years of wisdom with others. He always led by example and always found a way to coach along the way.
For those of you that didn’t know him as well as we did, here are a few more words of wisdom and Frankisms:
You never get a 2nd chance to make a first impression
This too shall pass
Never cut someone off at the knees to make yourself look taller
Always have a firm handshake
Yes sir and yes ma’am are words of respect
Always do what you say you are going to do
You have to spend money to make money
When negotiating, always let the other person throw out the first number
Treat others the way you want to be treated
God, Family, Work & Everything Else
Work Hard, Pray Often and Play Some
Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today
Boredom is a choice
Don’t ever believe anyone if they tell you that you can’t do something
He was always busy – a man in constant motion – but never too busy to share his love of life with those around him. He was a very handy individual and could fix anything. He and mom managed a 50-unit apartment complex right after they got married. This enabled them to get their apartment at no cost in exchange for managing the entire complex. Throughout the years ahead he invested in numerous renovation projects and rental properties.
My love for cars and flying came from Dad. He enjoyed driving fast and he taught me how to handle a car at all speeds.
He was a private pilot too. Around the time he started flying I remember Dad saying: “son, time is your most precious commodity, you can’t make more of it.” In the middle of his instrument rating he was diagnosed with a heart condition that would prohibit him from passing his FAA medical exam, thus prohibiting him from pursuing his passion to fly. The doctors told him that his heart condition was something that he would die with, but never die of. The next 35 years proved that to be true.
Dad could relate to people from all walks of life. He was an empathetic man. He valued character over everything else. And he was no cynic. He looked for the good in each person – and nearly always found it.
Dad taught us that one can serve with integrity and hold true to the important values, like faith and family. He strongly believed that it was important to give back to the church, the community and the country in which one lived. He recognized that serving others was what gave him joy. To us who loved him though, he was the brightest lighthouse on the planet.
He accepted that failure is part of living a full life, but taught us never to be defined by failure. He taught us that opportunities always involve risk and the setbacks from failure will strengthen us.
He had an enormous capacity to give of himself. Many people would tell you that dad became a mentor and a father figure in their life. He listened and he consoled. He was their friend. He even opened our home on several occasions to house the children he was mentoring where he worked.
He has taught me what it means to be a wonderful father, grandfather, and great grand-father. He was firm in his principles and supportive as I began to seek my own ways. He encouraged and comforted, but rarely steered. I know I tested his patience, but he always responded with the great gift of unconditional love.
To all of us that knew him, he was close to perfect. But, not totally perfect. He sure couldn’t make his way around the dance floor very well. His singing voice certainly wasn’t worth recording and he didn’t really set the best example of a balanced diet as he routinely ate Oreos dipped in milk late at night. And by the way, he passed down some of these genetic defects to future generations.
Finally, every day of his 53 years of marriage, Dad showed us all what it means to be a great husband. He married the woman of his dreams and always made her feel special. His world revolved around making her happy and proud. He was totally dedicated to her.
Dad encouraged and embraced the success of others. He believed in leaving his children a bigger car, a bigger bank account, and better opportunities than he had. However, if you asked him what he really wanted of us, he would say that he wants us to leave our home, our town, our state and our country in better shape than we found it. He would want us to leave the future generations with a solid set of core values so they can do the same. What do we want the men and women who knew us to say when we are no longer there? When you’ve lived a life like Frank Burcham, your legacy speaks for itself.
Forever a Cardinal baseball fan, Dad would want everyone to know that the Cardinals are leading their division as we enter this critical time of the season. It’s nearing playoff season and the Cardinals are playing good ball. There’s joy in Cardinal nation.
We’re gonna miss you Dad. However, I know you are looking down on us right now and saying: “This too shall pass, you all need to keep moving forward.”