SAVOY – Richard Henry "Dick" Burwash, 94, of Savoy died Saturday morning (Nov. 10, 2012) at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.
Private family funeral services will be held on Friday, Nov. 23, with the Rev. James C. McClarey officiating. Graveside services with military rites will follow at Grandview Memorial Gardens. Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, is handing arrangements.
A public reception and open house will be held on Saturday, Nov. 24, from noon to 4 p.m. at the Windsor of Savoy, 401 Burwash Ave., Savoy.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, a memorial donation is suggested to the University of Illinois ACES Library, 1101 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, or to the United Way of Champaign County, 404 W. Church St., Champaign, IL 61820.
Dick was born in the homestead on the family farm in Savoy on March 26, 1918, to Arthur E. and Mabel Womacks Burwash. He married Catherine Watson on Jan. 12, 1944. She preceded him in death on Sept. 9, 2007.
Survivors include daughters, Laurin Elizabeth Vinson of Kansas City, Mo., and Carol J. Burwash of Tuscola; two grandsons, Andrew L. (Paula) Vinson of Tampa, Fla., and Thaddeus Nathan Vinson of Omaha, Neb.; stepsister, Phyllis Evans Moore of Tulsa, Okla.; and many beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.
In addition to his wife, parents and stepmother Florence Evans Burwash, he was preceded in death by his daughter Barbara Anne and two stepbrothers, George Evans and Edward Evans of Decatur.
Dick grew up in Monticello until the family relocated to Long Beach, Calif., where his father worked for Standard Oil of California. The family came back to Champaign County in 1927 when his father took over running the family farm. Dick was a lifelong member of the Savoy United Methodist Church.
Dick finished grade school in Savoy and was graduated from Champaign High School in 1935. He attended the University of Illinois, joined Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, and was a member of the ROTC.
With U.S. entry into World War II on the horizon, Dick enlisted in the Army and completed boot camp on the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served with the Army Air Forces as a Link Trainer operator at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul until he was accepted to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1942.
After a stint on a base near Savannah, Ga., he received a transfer to the 439th Troop Carrier Group, where he served as ordnance officer and bomb disposal expert. The outfit relocated to England in February 1944 and carried paratroopers and towed gliders to Normandy on D-Day.
He served with the 439th through the end of the war and was discharged in December 1945 as a first lieutenant. He attended many reunions of his old troop carrier comrades and enjoyed traveling with them to Europe to revisit wartime sites.
After the war Dick returned to Savoy and farmed the family ground. He was an active member of the Champaign County Farm Bureau and served on its legislative committee in the early 1970s. In 1973, The News-Gazette selected him as Farm Leader of the Year.
In addition to farming, he served on the Carle Foundation Board of Trustees from 1967 to 1972 and was president of the board in 1970-71. For many years he sat on the board of directors of the Champaign National Bank (now Busey Bank) and served as the board's chairman in the 1980s.
Dick was a 57-year member of the Rotary Club of Champaign, and for 56 of those years he grew sweet corn for their annual corn roast. He also was a 32nd-Degree Mason, a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge in Savoy, and a lifetime member of American Legion Post 1492 in Savoy.
For decades he joined his cronies every morning for breakfast and coffee. Over the years the group outlived the Paradise Inn restaurant, the cafe at Willard Airport, the Red Wheel, and Aunt Sonya's pancake house. Let's hope Steak 'n Shake survives to continue to serve the remainder of the group.
He also was a regular member of the men's group at the Stevick Senior Center in downtown Champaign.
Beloved father, grandfather, cousin and uncle; dear friend; and active community member. We will miss him.