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Kate Sault Judy Singer Ted Burghart Jr. Pam Hogarth
|Audio Recording of the Memorial Service (17 MB)|
Theodore “Ted” Burghart, 81, of Woodbury, CT, died Friday, December 14th, 2007, at his home. He was the husband of Carlys Burghart.
Mr. Burghart was born in Bridgeport, CT, son of the late Otto F. and Myrtle Burghart. He was a long-time resident of Nichols, CT, where he met and married his wife of 58 years. He and his family moved to Woodbury in 1970.
He worked as a manager and consultant in light industrial, commercial and municipal building. His most recent endeavor was as a partner in Garnet Consulting Services, Inc.
He was an avid volunteer, serving the town of Woodbury for many years. He was on the original committee to establish a senior center and the first Public Building Commission. He was on the Board of Directors for almost 20 years at Flanders Nature Center, volunteered at the Woodbury Library, where he learned to mend books, and for the Friendly Visitors of Southbury.
He loved the outdoors and served for several years as a trail maintainer for the Connecticut Forest and Park Service. He enjoyed hiking and learned to play tennis after he retired.
He was a devoted husband and father.
Besides his wife, he leaves three daughters, a son, 10 grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his brother, Peter Burghart of Guilford, CT.
When I learned of my father′s cancer, and then learned the extent and prognosis, I set out to let him know, while he was still with us and still clear-headed, how much I appreciate him. So I set down some memories and thoughts, and passed them to him a few weeks ago. Here is some of that letter.
As I work past the sadness and shock of your prognosis, I am flooded with memories. There′s no time like the present to write them down and relive some of the times with you that stand out most.
My earliest memory of you is many instances of the same event: you′re whistling under your breath and talking to yourself while working on some project or repair in your garage work area. I always did love that sound: breathy whistled tunes interrupted by self-castigations such as “Ted, that′s not going to work until you fasten this other piece here...” Your intensity and focus meant that I could watch and listen without disturbing you. So now who works at her desk talking and singing to herself while others in the room are completely tuned out? Thank you for the work ethic, and for the message that a little music helps get the work done.
On our many camping and canoe trips, my Dad was the worker bee. I hardly remember the setup times, getting the fires started, the other mechanics of the endeavor, because you and Mom were always so well-organized and efficient that it seemed to just happen. But it′s my definite impression that you enjoyed those trips as much as the rest of us did, so you must have found your own way to relax amid the chores.
Once a little boy from a neighboring campsite fell down and it looked pretty bad. You took off running, leaping over roots and rocks to get to him first. I don′t remember the outcome but I do remember being very proud of my father, the first on the scene, the most alert, running to assist a stranger.
On another memorable camping trip the food theme was “catch and eat your own frog legs.” (They were pretty good; they tasted like chicken.) Who else in my grade school could boast of that?
All the years of camping were of course culminated in the Allagash canoe trip, when you showed your true sartorial talent. No one wears river dirt like you, Dad! (For those of you who missed it, be sure to check out the legendary Allagash photo.) Thank you for all the wonderful experiences outdoors. Most folks don′t get to do half of the stuff we did as kids.
Fast-forward: yesterday Mom, Len and I were looking out your picture window at this year′s vegetable garden. I looked at that garden and I was overcome. It might be the last of your gardening efforts, and it′s a beauty. To me it represents so much of what you are: a man who likes to plan, to dig, to tend, to weed, to share his harvest, to cook, to enjoy the rain and the sun and the growing things. That′s the peace you get from gardening and it reaches way inside. I′m glad I had you and Mom to help me learn how to get that feeling.
One thing I want to add is the cooking and eating bit. Esophageal cancer ... it seems like a cruel joke. You are not a demonstrative person, but when you and I explored recipes or weird food ideas, it brought us together. It was “I love you.” The last thing I wanted to see happen to you was loss of the pleasure of eating good food. But you have given me a legacy of that love of cooking, so thank you for that.
One more note: My father′s journal, which he was happy to share, tracks the time before and during his illness. It reveals a man who was grateful for a long, well-lived life, who understood what a blessing family is, and who treasured his wife above all. To quote: “I have a wonderful and exceptional wife. I′m a lucky man. Thank you God!”
From Ted Burghart′s journal, March, 2007:
The business of God - He, or She, is not to me an omnipotent something up in the sky. God is within me. It is the thing that makes me feel good when I do good things (like helping other people). And it makes me feel bad when I indulge in bad things - maybe habits I cannot overcome. It′s the thing that makes us continue when we′re tired because the objective is important& the thing that lets us rest peaceably after a good day. Looking outside me doesn′t work well anymore. I must look inside and that′s not always easy.
My dad was not a warm, fuzzy, huggy, kissy dad when we were growing up. So it makes it even more special that he was a warm, huggy dad later on.
I always knew that I was loved, even when I did something he didn′t like.
I have memories of Dad struggling to help me understand math - and I still don′t care what x + y equal. I remember playing cards on Sunday afternoons, with Dad′s homemade bread baking, and family walks. And I was remembering, as I cleared my throat this morning, of Dad clearing his throat during church services. Everyone always knew where the Burgharts were sitting!
I have come to realize that there is never enough time with family and friends. So make the time to get together.
You are never really ready for the death of someone you love. And you can never say I love you too often.
I love you, Daddy, and you will be in my heart always.
Friends and family have told you, and will tell you, that my Dad was a good and decent man, a wonderful husband and father, a cherished friend. He was all of those things, and so much more.
He and Mom were a team, two halves of a whole. After half a dozen decades together, I don′t know if Dad′s illness could have brought them any closer than they already were, but it provided a case study for the rest of us on the nature of life and love. Both cared more for the other′s well-being than for their own. Their example these last few weeks is yet another memory I′ll treasure for the rest of my life. Dad′s passing was as dignified as his life, and that′s saying a lot.
Let me tell you what it was like to be his son. Like any parent, Dad accumulated his experiences and, from them, came up with his own ideas about what was important to pass on to his children. Unlike a lot of parents, I think he got it just about right. That′s not to say he never made any mistakes - he was, after all, human - but he did as well as anyone could hope to.
I didn′t always feel that way. It′s conceivable that I may not have been what some parents would consider to be the perfect teenager. I distinctly remember Dad saying to me “you know, I was 16 once” (I′m guessing I was probably 16 at the time). People claim I was a bright kid, but I can tell you that before that, it never occurred to me that Dad might actually understand what it was like to be a teenager. We had a few rough years, but he seemed to get a lot smarter in my twenties. It′s been pretty smooth sailing since then.
All my life, Dad′s been there for me. As a child, he nourished my thirst for knowledge, seemingly knowing (and teaching) all. As a teen, he put up with a lot, but still helped whenever he could. As an adult, he was more than a father, he was a great friend. We could talk for hours, right up to the end. Just a few days before his death, I′m told, he fretted after one of our chats that he′d “talked my ear off.” That could never happen, of course, but I recall being worried during the same conversation about exhausting him. As disease consumed his body, when he could no longer get outside to work in the yard, or even read a book, he still needed to talk, to teach, to exchange ideas, and I relished every moment.
As I look back, Dad didn′t really give me a lot of advice. Only as I′ve gotten into (dare I say it) middle age, have I realized how much more important what he gave me instead was. He knew better than to tell me, at any age, what he thought I should do. But then, I didn′t really need to ask ... all I had to do was look.
For half a century, he′s shown me the right way to be a husband, a father, a good and decent man. Though I didn′t always realize what I was being shown, I like to think some of it rubbed off. I sure hope so, because I guess I′ve got to take it from here. But I′ll be fine, because I′ve seen how to do it, well, just right.
I am blessed to have had Dad as my father. He and Mom had 4 children in under 7 years and lovingly shepherded all of us to productive adulthood. Dad did a lot of talking and explaining but no yelling. I remember him being disappointed in me when I did less than my best, but I only remember one time that I was disappointed in him - when he quit his job and I worried as only a teenaged daughter can about our family′s future. But Dad had it under control and I later learned that he had quit for good reason. Dad had thought through his decision and done the right thing, as always. We learned honesty and goodness and caring by watching our Dad in action.
As busy as family and career made Dad, he always found time to volunteer. One of my early memories is playing in the church while he helped install a new floor. Dad taught immigrants to read with Literacy Volunteers, maintained trails for the Connecticut Forest and Park Service, rebound library books, and visited folks in need of a friend. Dad liked to be active, and when that activity benefited the larger community, he liked it all the more.
Dad loved to learn and to experience new things. As a young man he tinkered with sports cars and worked with wood. In his later years he developed a fascination with modern dance, driving up to Jacob′s Pillow to enjoy the performances there. He read and remembered countless books on myriad topics. I cherish the memories of leisurely conversations while walking in the woods, riding in the car, or relaxing on the deck.
Dad had an unerring eye for what was truly important. As a child, I loved that my Dad would take me to work and out to lunch at Friendly′s with him, not once but many times. As a young woman, I knew that he was always there for me even when my sense of 60′s style made him reluctant to claim me at the bus station. As a mother, I am thankful that my Dad shared his love and wisdom with my children as he did with me.
In recent years Dad was a wonderful grandfather, a devoted husband proud of his almost 60 year marriage to Mom, and an understanding father who always had time to listen and advise. We are thankful that we had him to the age of 81 as an active and vital part of our lives and will do our best to follow his example with our children and grandchildren.
Rest in Peace, Dad.
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