Charles H. Burch

Obituary
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Charles H. Burch Charles H. 'Charley' Burch, a longtime writer in public relations whose lively wit and restless curiosity took him from the corn fields of Missouri to the peaks of Machu Picchu, passed away at his daughter's home in Memphis, Tenn. on June 28 after an illness of several months. Charley was born Oct. 16, 1927, in Bates County, Missouri, the youngest of Jerry and Mary Searfus Burch's five sons, and attended the one-room Star School near his family's farm before graduating in 1945 from Butler High School. He entered the Army from high school, training as a paratrooper at Ft. Benning, Georgia. When World War II ended, he enrolled at the University of Missouri, where he majored in agricultural journalism. He married Naomi Braden the year he received his undergraduate degree, and took a job in the extension office at the University of Vermont in Burlington. From Vermont, he moved to Ames, Iowa, for graduate school in technical journalism and economics at Iowa State, where he recalled walking across frozen corn fields in the dark on winter mornings to report news, cattle markets and weather on the school's radio station. He took a job as extension editor at Colorado A&M in Fort Collins, Colorado, where his first task was to build public and legislative support to rename the school Colorado State University, as it is known today, and where he and Naomi briefly took up knothead square dancing, a style he described as "graceful and refined." His next job as public relations director for Great Plains Wheat took him to Garden City, Kansas, where he traveled to a network of the association's foreign offices - New Delhi, Tokyo, Rotterdam - to promote the sale of American wheat. Though international travel appealed to his nature, it compromised his role as husband and father of two girls, so he found a place in the Cumberland Valley town of Chambersburg, as public relations director at Wilson College, where his publications won awards from the American College Public Relations Association. From there, he joined the communications staff for the Pennsylvania State Senate for 15 years. In retirement, he often could be found at his Olympia typewriter, composing letters to his correspondents on current events, politics, local news and the many trips he and Naomi took. Before her death in 2013, the pair traveled to Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and Haiti. On a 22-day trek on the old Inca trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu, they crossed a glacier, camping on the ice. He traveled to Cusco again with a medical mission, and joined a church mission to Cochabamba, Bolivia. On trips to the South and Midwest, he detoured to stay at the historic communal societies of New Harmony in Indiana and Shaker Village in Kentucky. He would drive far out of his way to dine at characterful places such as Miss Mary Bobo's and the Loveless Cafe in Tennessee. He had an agile intelligence and exuberant spirit. He was a daily reader of The New York Times and several other newspapers; a vegetable gardener who cultivated a variety of hot peppers; a cheese aficionado who regularly traveled to Vermont to buy Grafton and Shelburne cheddar. In the early summer, he picked strawberries and blueberries; in late summer and fall he began collecting the apples he would send by the boxful to family and friends. He loved folk and choral music, and sang in his church's Chancel Choir for 40 years. In May, he attended his fourth Judy Collins concert. He liked an informed political discussion, and a "true" martini with gin. On his five-mile run each morning, he "delivered" his neighbors' newspapers from driveway to doorstep, then visited his friends, the baristas at the Chambersburg Starbucks. He was a Lions Club member for four decades, serving as president of the clubs in both Garden City and Chambersburg. He was a longtime member of the AARP Falling Springs chapter, and served three terms as president. At Iowa State University, he was initiated into Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists. In the 1971-72 school year, the family hosted Carmen Helena Villaveces of Bogota, Columbia, as an exchange student through American Field Service. He is survived by his daughter Peggy Burch of Memphis; daughter and son-in-law Holly Burch and Clif Wieden of Falmouth, Massachusetts; granddaughters Zoe Kahn and Nora Kahn of Los Angeles, and their father, Arthur Kahn; two stepgrandsons, Clif Wieden IV and Conan Wieden of Falmouth; his sisters-in-law Barbara Burch and Aleta Schowengerdt of Butler; nephews Doug Burch of Neosho, Missouri; Larry Burch and Brett Burch of Butler; Claude Lee Burch; and nieces Diana Crawford, and Deborah, Karen, Myra and Mona Burch. A memorial service will be held at St. John's United Church of Christ, 1811 Lincoln Way East in Chambersburg, at 11 a.m. Friday, July 11, with lunch to follow. Donations may be made to the Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter or St. John's church, both of Chambersburg.
Published in Public Opinion on July 6, 2014
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