Cover photo for William Everest Burr's Obituary
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1948 William 2023

William Everest Burr

December 23, 1948 — December 16, 2023


William Everest Burr was born on December 23, 1948, the first child of William Charles and Deloris Irene (Schaal) Burr, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Their family circle was enlarged over the years by the births of five siblings who followed: Jack, Richard, Nancy, Patricia, and Charles. Bill is survived by his wife for 52 years, Pamela, two sons, William James Burr, Jesse Daniel Burr, and daughter Juliet Mary (Burr) Cook. In time, two of the three children married, adding son-in-law Benjamin James Cook and daughter-in-law Michelle Kay Burr into the fold. He is also survived by ten grandchildren, brother-in-law Scott Bickford, and multitudes of cousins, nieces, and nephews. 

As a young husband and father, Bill had an encounter with the Lord; he chose to become a Christian, a decision that has carried him to where he lives today, in the presence of the God Who created him, and welcomed him to Heaven. He was an example to his children about how to live his life, faithfully honoring his marriage vows and his commitment to his family. He didn’t go out to socialize with other men, to pay much attention to sports, or to find ways to amuse himself alone. Most of what he did with his free time was invested in his wife, children, and grandchildren. His family had the most loving part of his heart, and each have good experiences to remember and share about him.

His faith was mostly quiet, but he was a man who looked for people who needed help. He valued opportunities to put his know-how to work for the benefit of others. Those with genuine need saw the most gentle part of his personality as he responded. For example, when he was eating his lunch at work, he would not hesitate to abandon his meal to answer a call, if his help was needed somewhere else in the building. 

His early years were spent growing up in historic Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in a house whose property line extended to the edge of a channel of the Mississippi River that flowed past their back yard. Some of the stories he told later sound very much like Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer. Some of the best parts of his youth were the hours he spent exploring nature and learning to be a skilled fisherman. Those experiences instilled in him a love of nature, animals, and of course, becoming even more skilled at fishing. One time he was ice fishing, some blocks from the family home, and he fell into the hole in the ice, catching himself with his hands stopping him from submerging. He escaped without harm, and as he walked home his jeans froze; he could barely walk.

While in high school, the family moved east to Milton, Wisconsin, a quiet college town. He spent hours with his father, who taught him to have an honorable work ethic, mechanical skills, responsible fatherhood, and what a true man must be like. Both parents worked full time; the older children were expected to pitch in with chores, looking after the younger children. They were always busy. 

After high school graduation, he went to the vocational school in nearby Janesville, where he studied mechanical drafting. Being left-handed, his lettering was always very careful and neat. He was hired as a draftsman at Gilman Engineering, and put his skills to work. It was there that he met the young lady who would play a key role in his life. She was the girl who made copies of the draftsmen’s designs, and somehow he found many reasons to have her copy prints for him. Eventually two of his young co-workers persuaded him to ask her out on a date; the first of many. 

It was the season of the Vietnam War, and his number came up; he was drafted. He asked his girl to marry him some day, and she wore his engagement ring. After his training was over, he was stationed in Germany, in an artillery unit. His skill qualified him as a sharpshooter. In April, 1971, his grandmother passed away; the Army allowed him to return to Wisconsin for her funeral. While at home, he achieved one other life goal. He and Pamela Sue Bickford, were married. When his thirty-day leave was up, he returned to Germany to finish his service commitment; she stayed stateside to complete her degree studies.

After his discharge, Bill joined his wife in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. She continued school; he settled down to find a job and enjoy married life. When her studies were completed, they packed up all their belongings and moved from Illinois to Claremore, Oklahoma. This was the area where his father-in-law, James H. Bickford, had been born and raised, and many years later, brought his wife, Sue, and their three sons, Paul, Ed, and Scott, back to live there. 

Bill and his wife settled in Tulsa, and bought a home. Four years after they married, their first child was born. William James became an older brother to Jesse Daniel, and after they moved to a larger home in Claremore, the family welcomed their third child, Juliet Mary. This is the house they lived in ever since, raised their children, gardened, had pets, and even raised chickens for some time. In time, grandchildren enlarged the family: Tabitha Rose, William Theodore, Trinity Joy, a bonus grandchild, Saylar, also Dash, Aidan, Alyssa, Everest James, Caspian Daniel, and the most recent, Cordelia Jean. 

With his background in mechanical drafting, he always preferred to engineer creations of metal. But with his love of family, he reluctantly managed to become a skilled woodworker, too, because that was what was most often needed. He crafted several pieces of furniture and other items for family that are cherished today, many small and large, but always clever pieces that solved problems that served to fill needs for those he loved. Many of these have the potential to become cherished heirlooms for the future.

There was one interesting detail about him that might cause chuckles. Because his birthday was two days before Christmas, he always connected with the cartoon character, the Grinch! He collected t-shirts with that image, and always enjoyed re-viewing those cartoons. Fishing remained one of Bill’s favorite pastimes, and since his father-in-law was familiar with some of the best fishing spots in the county, all the guys in the family took the time to get out and see what they could catch! Bill’s wife, a city girl, was glad to let them keep all that fun to themselves. However, on one rare occasion, Bill persuaded her to take off her shoes, roll up her pants, and go noodling below the dam at Claremore Lake in the frigid waters, bravely trying to avoid catching a snake. Once was enough!

Bill had a mechanical aptitude, and well-suited to operating heating and air conditioning. During his working years, he worked at the Thornton YMCA, for engineering companies. His last employer, was Tulsa Technology Center. During his several years with Tech, he worked at all their campuses. His astute technical problem-solving earned him a reputation that led to periodic requests for him to consult on perplexing mechanical issues at other facilities. When winter weather hit, while others were staying in and warm, he was the one who would brave the icy roads to get to the campus where he worked, whether it was near or far, and to go to work shoveling and de-icing sidewalks, making sure parking lots were safe. 

His crowning professional achievement was to be selected to be the first Facilities Manager of the Owasso campus of Tulsa Technology Center. He regarded this as the job he had always wanted; it was the job he was born to do; his expertise was respected. In this large building, Bill walked a minimum of five miles per shift, as his pedometer confirmed!  Those who worked with Bill knew he worked hard, willing to abandon his lunch, if his help was needed somewhere on campus. He was a natural teacher; very aware that his presence was an example of a good role model for the students. He was always pleased to be asked questions or to help a student who had requests for scrap lumber, etc. when they had class projects to complete. He did not respect coworkers or contractors who did not have a standard of excellence; those soon learned to do better or find other places to be.  He was twice awarded honors for his work: in 2014, he was Staff Member of the Year, and in 2017, recognized for his eighteen years of dedicated service and commitment.

As much as he invested in his employment, retirement also brought new pleasures, with less stress and much more time to devote to family, projects around the house, collecting pecans from trees in his yard, finding corny jokes to tell others, driving to the lake to see where the birds congregated. One of his favorite pursuits was caring for and training a rescue puppy, a black labrador mix. He named her Hope; during his illness, she was the source of some of his heartiest belly laughs at her antics. He was a man who, like his father before him, could put on a gruff demeanor. But other times he let his inner rascal out; he relished catching others off guard. After he retired, he enjoyed taking his wife out to lunch. And even there, when he heard the Lord whisper, he took pleasure in secretly paying for the meals of other people as the Lord directed him. It was always his delight to know he could surprise others, and leave them feeling blessed and noticed.
Though he and his sense of humor are silent now, there is a legacy of experiences many have had that will perhaps keep him in mind in future years. As a young man, he considered becoming a teacher. If you learned any good things from Bill, please teach them to others. Maybe it will be his jokes, or some of the woodworking projects, or other designs he came up with through the years that will cause us to smile and remember that a good man walked by here, and some of us were blessed to have known him. 

In lieu of flowers, please donate to the Northstar Pryor Storehouse Building Fund.
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Thank you for joining us, honoring him by reading this story of his life.

With Jesus’ love,

Pamela Bickford Burr and family

Photo Credit: Joey Johnson, 
Photography Instructor, Tulsa Technology Center 

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