Richard C. Burnham, 97, life-long Greenfield resident, died on Friday (5-10-19) at The Arbors of Greenfield. Born on December 11, 1921 in Greenfield, he was the son of Harold T. and Lillian M. (Howe) Burnham. Richard ("Dick") was a 1938 graduate of Greenfield High School. He married the former Mildred ("Millie") Turner on April 20, 1946. Millie predeceased him on August 7, 2017. Dick was a member of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
As a youth, Dick was a Boy Scout, and later, a Sea Scout. He was an avid model airplane builder and flyer, with a fascination for gasoline engines and all things mechanical. He also enjoyed golf, and caddied at the Country Club. His childhood home on Leyden Road backed up to the 5th Hole of the Country Club. During his high school years he worked at Cade's Florist on Ave. A in Turners Falls. Upon graduation, he was employed as an auto mechanic at Farr's Garage on the corner of Federal St. and Euclid Ave. It was here where he met and became fast friends with fellow mechanic Hal Turner. Hal introduced Dick to his sister, Millie, who was attending Mass State College (now UMass Amherst). World War II would separate them temporarily.
Dick was a WWII Veteran, serving in the U.S. Army Air Forces from January 1943 to January 1946. Upon induction, he received several weeks of training at the Chicago School of Aircraft Instruments as an Instrument Repair Technician, before shipping to Base Air Depot #2, Warton, England. After 30 months in England, and the cessation of hostilities in the European Theatre, he was transferred to Compiegne, France for 6 months, where he held the position of Maintenance Shop Chief, supervising the servicing of Army transport vehicles of all sizes which were being transferred to the Pacific Theatre where the war was raging with Japan. Upon discharge, he held the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Back home, he went to work for H. C. Wing & Sons, on Pierce St. (Today, the building is signed as "Pierce Street Iron Works".) Recreationally, Dick was flying model planes competitively in control-line stunt, speed, and combat categories. He launched a one-man business named "Burnham Hobby Specialties" in the basement of the family home at 79 Allen St. where he sold model airplane equipment and supplies to many local flyers. He also manufactured his own "Husky Handle" for control-line flying, which was based on an aluminum investment casting of his design. This business, along with his flying, faded in the early 50s as the responsibilities of a growing family prevailed.
In 1951, he became the very first full-time employee hired by John Bete, founder of Bete Fog Nozzle. At that time, Bete's manufacturing facility was a rented lower-level space in the building diagonally across Pierce St. from H. C. Wing & Sons (today's Tognarelli Heating & Cooling). During his career with Bete, he invented several spray nozzles for industrial and agricultural applications. He retired in 1986 as Vice President of Research & Development. However, his creative mind persisted, and he consulted part-time for Bete until 2014.
In the '60s, Dick invented and patented an abrasive belt-sander which required no tension on the belt for it to be driven. Rather, the belt was pulled forcibly to the drive wheel by vacuum. This allowed for "slack" in the belt to also be pulled by vacuum to a pre-formed shape, and was intended to be utilized to grind and polish critical curved surfaces such as turbine blades.
While living at Allen St., Dick and Millie raised three children; Carol ('47), Dale ('50), and Margo ('54). All were avid campers, and spent many memorable summers on the outer Cape. In 1992, with children grown and gone, they moved to 24 Washburn Ave. In early 2012, recognizing the infirmities of age, they sold their home and moved to The Arbors at Greenfield assisted living facility on Meridian St.
Dick was very active in the Franklin County Amateur Radio Club, and a member of the American Radio Relay League for over 40 years, holding an Extra Class license with call sign AC1L. He particularly enjoyed working with many GHS students who formed a school Ham club. He was Treasurer of GHS Class of '38, and Class Reunion Committee member.
Survivors include: his son Dale (wife Brenda) of Simpsonville, SC; his daughter Margo Reinwein (husband Rudolf ("Rudi")) of Leitzersdorf, Austria; and three grandchildren, Nina Reinwein of Vienna, Austria, Timothy Burnham (wife Alisa) of Roanoke, VA, and Jennifer Dezember (husband John) of Cedar Bluff, VA. He also leaves a brother-in-law Robert P. "Mickey" Turner (wife Nancy) of Erving, a sister-in-law, Dorothy "Dottie" Turner of Hatfield, a niece and several nephews.
He was predeceased by daughter Carol Norton, son-in-law Robert G. Norton and brother-in-law Harold A. Turner, Jr.
The family would like to thank the staff at The Arbors of Greenfield, Integra Home Health of Agawam, and Cooley Dickinson VNA and Hospice for their exceptional and loving care.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, June 24, at Walker Funeral Home, 14 High Street, Greenfield, beginning with a visitation at 10:00 am, and service at 11:00. Burial with military honors will follow at Green River Cemetery, 256 Wisdom Way, Greenfield.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be directed to St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 23 Long Avenue, Greenfield, MA 01301, or to the American Cancer Society
, Inc. [donate3.cancer.org