John Burchard: Newspaper ArticleBurlington Free Press
January 22, 2004
By Andy Netzel
Free Press Staff Writer
Not long after finishing his doctorate, John Burchard didn't have enough money to buy backpacks for his family to use while hiking. So, in the mid-1960s, he built the frames himself out of ash wood and webbing from a clothes-line.
"When we would take family trips -- and they were always backpacking and canoeing -- we would always take extra kids," said John's wife, Sara Burchard. "So there are many people who felt like they are part of our family even though they weren't biologically."
Burchard's family has been reminded how many people felt connected to him this week as news of his death spread. John Burchard died Sunday of heart failure at age 67 in his Burlington home.
Publicly, John Burchard was best known for his social and mental health work in the community. He founded the area's first hockey equipment exchange for low-income youths, the Burlington Youth Employment Program along with then-mayor Bernie Sanders and many other organizations and programs.
He was the head of the state Social and Rehabilitation Services Department. He also was a long-time board member of the King Street Youth Center and helped found the community mental health program at Trinity College, which moved to Southern New Hampshire University when the college closed. He continued to teach at the University of Vermont's psychology department until only a few weeks ago.
Personally, he was known as someone who wanted to know everyone in his family's life, someone who made his work his life and someone athletic -- he lettered in football, basketball and track in his Ohio high school and later turned down a tryout with the NFL's St. Louis Cardinals to continue his education.
Burchard taught in his distance learning program at Southern New Hampshire University until December. The focus of the program -- taught in Vermont, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Alaska -- was to bring mental health services to children's homes instead of in an office, said Annamarie Cioffari, director of the program. Cioffari said it's one of the first national programs of its kind.
Collene Brady-Dragomir, one of his former students in Fairbanks, Alaska, and later a colleague, said Burchard chose Alaska for the program because so many children were being sent out of state for mental health care.
"Even those that never met him benefited from him," Brady-Dragomir said. "They still benefit from him. The kids returned and were able to live with their families."
When Burchard lost much of his mobility, he had meetings in his bedroom and worked from a computer in his bed, his wife, Sara Burchard, said. While visiting a heart specialist at a Cleveland hospital last week, John Burchard was calling into the Colchester office of the university with student grades.
Dan Burchard, one of John's three sons, said he can't wait to hear some of the stories at his father's memorial service, which will be held Jan. 31.
"Either tailgating at a football game in college, or when friends were visiting us, my father was always truly interested in what everyone in our lives were doing," Dan Burchard said. "They really felt a direct connection with my father rather than a connection through me. They all have their own stories with my father."
Last month, John Burchard attended the Charlie Burchard Memorial Tournament, named after his youngest son who died at age 23 in the 1980s. Afterward, he shed tears with players and coaches in the locker room as they discussed his son's young death, Dan Burchard said.
Burchard is also survived by his son John and his wife, Vicki, of Glenview, Ill.; his son Dan and his wife, Jane, of Burlington; his daughter Linda and her husband, Stephen Boudah, of Middlebury; his brother Charlie and his wife, Ginny, of Cleveland; and five grandchildren.
Contact Andy Netzel at 660-1867 or firstname.lastname@example.org.