Old Town, Maine - Beverly Bruce "BB" Burnham, 91, passed away Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, with several family members by his side|
Beverly Bruce Burnham was born on Dec. 21, 1922 in Old Town, Maine; the youngest child of five of Margaret Jane (Porter) and Waldo Worth Burnham. Twelve years younger than the next child, his siblings Leona, Marguerite, Aubert and Roger were required to help keep an eye on him. Having survived this special attention, he attended Old Town schools, graduating from high school in 1940. He next attended the University of Maine in Orono in engineering. Upon his graduation in summer of 1944, he entered the U.S. Navy, training and serving stateside. He was headed to the Philippines in August 1945 when Japan surrendered, the effective end of World War II. He stayed in the Philippines for several months, completing his enlistment in June 1946. His next employment was by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics(became NASA) at Langley Field, Va.
He had returned home to Old Town for a visit when he met his future wife, Barbara M. Putnam, who was in the nursing program at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. They were married in February, 1948.
This new family returned to Virginia where their first child, Alan, was born. BB, as friends and co-workers knew him, wanted to move closer to Maine, and found employment in New London, at the US Naval Underwater Sound Laboratory in fall, 1950. After renting in New London for almost two years, the family bought a house in the Oak Grove Beach section of Niantic, and BB carpooled to New London every day. His second and third children, Bruce and Karen, were born over the next three years.
BB continued his work for the Navy, receiving an MBA from UCLA, and moving into engineering management. He became involved in the advisory committees for the construction or renovation of three schools in East Lyme, including chairing the building committee for the Lillie B. Haines School.
BB had a broad range of interests and was always helping friends and neighbors with projects. In the days when TVs were filled with tubes, he often fixed them for relatives and neighbors. A child of the Great Depression, he had learned to be frugal. He kept a vegetable garden, improved and repaired his own home and cars, cleaned his own furnace, built his own tube radios, speaker cabinets, and stereos. When they were first introduced, he designed and built his own transistor radios. He was interested in personal computers when they came out, and began with an Apple II. He also built two prams in his basement, which were used in Niantic Bay and Pushaw Lake. Later he learned to make wines from elderberries, grapes, dandelion blossoms, and rhubarb. He enjoyed planting unusual tree seeds he picked up while traveling, and that others brought to him. Classical music and traditional jazz were often heard around him, and he watched the evening news and every weather program he could, and shows about nature. He enjoyed dry, British comedy, and humor about Maine and Connecticut. He liked reading newspapers and magazines, and historical material. And he was a "people person", always engaging in conversations about their interests.
His retirement from federal service came on Feb. 29, 1980 after 36 years. After retirement, five and a half months of each year were spent at the family summer camp on Pushaw Lake in Old Town, and six and a half months were spent in Niantic. During the summer of 1984, BB and Barbara traded homes with Karen and this pattern continued for the next 22 years.
In 2006, what had been a summer camp was rebuilt as a year-round home. BB and Barbara were again Maine residents after 62 years. Fading health caused by polio from childhood resulted in his taking up residence at Dirigo Pines Retirement Community in November, 2013. He enjoyed his interactions with the staff and was visited frequently by family and friends.
His death came on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014, at the age of 91, with several family members by his side.
BB is survived by his wife of 66 years, Barbara; his sons, Alan (Joan) and Bruce (Pamela); his daughter, Karen (Bruce); by his grandchildren, Ross (Jena), Rachel (Patrick), Kate (Josh), Robyn (Chris), and Mark (Amanda); by his great-grandaughter, Madison; many relatives and friends; and by his dog, Ruby.
A celebration of life will be held during the coming summer in Maine.
Flowers that might have been sent to a service may be replaced by making a donation in BB's memory to Care and Share, P.O. Box 114, East Lyme, CT 06333.
Condolences may be expressed at brookings-smith.com.
Published in The Day on Feb. 14, 2014