by Carole Beers
In his travels as a billboard salesman, Harvey Burr heard every farm story there was, and then some. He was ambushed by a flock of turkeys. And he went eyeball-to-eyeball with bulls agitated over getting outdoor advertising in their personal pasture.
But it all was grist for his own stories, to entertain the next farmer he tried to lease space from, or to delight his own family.
"He told lots of stories about meeting different farmers, some of them kind of odd," said his daughter, Wendy Brown of Fall City. "After he retired and started volunteering at church and at Overlake Hospital (Medical Center), his favorite jobs were with people."
Part of the reason was that he could keep busy and swap stories.
The other reason?
"He volunteered in the Overlake pharmacy once a week, taking inventory and helping label things," said Brown. "Then he could go to the cafeteria and get lunch at a discount. He loved that!"
Mr. Burr, who put in 1,300 hours as an Overlake volunteer, died of cancer Tuesday (June 10). He was 80.
Born in Media, Pa., he grew up in Madison, Wis., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin. He played varsity football and hockey, and remained an avid Wisconsin Badger fan. He also rooted for the Green Bay Packers, and, most of all, the Chicago Cubs - "in whom he never lost hope," said his daughter.
He sold outdoor advertising in the Midwest for many years. Once, while measuring a site for a proposed sign in what he thought was an empty field, a flock of ticked-off turkeys piled atop him.
Mr. Burr moved to Bellevue in 1985 after his retirement and began helping out at St. Luke's Lutheran Church.
He enjoyed golf. He also liked to fish. Taking a cue from his billboard days, he even taught himself to paint.
"He really liked to paint but was no good at faces or bodies," said Brown. "So he'd clip faces and body parts out of the Sunday supplement magazine, paste them on the canvas and paint around them.
"It worked at first. But after awhile the newsprint began to yellow and the printing on back began to show through. His eyesight was so poor he never noticed, and we never told him!"
Other survivors include daughters Bonnie Ketter of Baltimore; and Nancy Morehouse, La Selva Beach, Calif.; sons Russell Burr, East Dundee, Ill.; and Garry Burr, Seattle; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife of 49 years, June Burr, died in 1990.
Services have been held. Memorials may go to St. Luke's Lutheran Church Building Fund, 3030 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue, WA 98004.
Originally published in The Seattle Times on June 16, 1997
Note: Harvey Burr's class year is based on information in the 1934 Orange and Black yearbook, which features his senior photo in the June graduates section.