Bobbie Lee Burkholder (Bob), veteran of WWII, bush pilot and biologist in Alaska, political activist for good government and environmental issues, actor, writer, and family man died on September 13 at the age of 90. His spirit lives on, however, in all of the lives he touched.
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Bob was born to a strong mother, Freda (deceased) and a steady father, Roy (deceased). He hunted and fished the woods and flat lands outside of Salina, Kansas where he lived until military service called. He served in the 101st Airborne Division (Reconnaissance) and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries suffered in the Battle of the Bulge.
He received a BS in wildlife biology from Colorado State University, married Norma Watson (deceased). Being a man of adventure, he moved to Alaska to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. His career as a wildlife biologist, pilot, land use specialist, and director of NW Refuges spanned 35 years primarily in Alaska, Montana and Oregon. He raised seven children, Bobbie, Jana, John, Lynn, Roy, Carl and Carrie, had eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren, all of whom survive his death.
He retired in 1983 and moved to Bainbridge Island where he worked tirelessly as a political activist on local planning and environmental issues. The Governor of the State of Washington honored him as the "Democrat of the Year" in 2003.
Although many begin to slow down after eighty, Bob was just getting started. During the last ten years of his life he accomplished some of his most significant milestones. He was a long standing member of the Men's Group in Winslow, sang in the local church choir, and played a strong role in the conservation of unique habitats on the Island. Still gaining momentum, he wrote his memoirs, Skirting the Edge, and starred in four short movies and two full-length movies including the movie Old Goats. He was still driving and going to the gym three weeks before his death. The color and texture of this man had no equivalents.
If Bob could be remembered for one thing it was his love of life, family and friends. Bob was a man who could brighten a room just by walking into it. There was never a social event that he didn't like. He had friends of all ages and political persuasions. He was a happy man and will be missed by all of us. A memorial to celebrate his life will be held at the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church on October 26, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the church at 105 Winslow Way West, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110.
Published in Alaska Dispatch News from Sept. 28 to Sept. 29, 2013