Editor’s note: The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is generally expressed in numbers of cases and deaths. But each data point represents a human life whose loss is felt by countless other people. We are chronicling some of them in an obituary series called Lives Remembered. If you know someone who has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing newstips@seattletimes.com with the subject line “Lives Remembered,” or by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.

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William “Bill” Burr enjoyed traveling and adventure, climbed every major mountain peak in Washington, and loved working on the Lunar Orbiter program in 1966-67.

Mr. Burr was also a family man, helping raise three children with Ruth, his wife of 62 years, and became devoted to charitable work as a retiree.

He died March 24 at age 91 from complications of the coronavirus.

“He was very humble,” said son Kenneth Burr. “I’ve had a lot of people comment on his life, and he would be surprised at how many people were fans of his. He went about his stuff and did what he did without thinking about being popular.”

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Mr. Burr grew up outside Los Angeles, and his life changed after the Los Angeles Pacific College basketball team took a trip north to play Seattle Pacific. He liked Seattle so much that he moved here, enrolling at SPU and getting a degree in physics. It was there he fell in love with fellow SPU student Ruth Davis.

Mr. Burr worked 37 years as an engineer at Boeing. He worked on the first 707 jets and various defense contracts, but his favorite project was working on the Lunar Orbiter program. Boeing helped design the orbiter for NASA, which sent five unmanned missions to the moon to help select a landing site.


Shortly after he retired, Mr. Burr was part of a medical mission to Haiti, and it changed his life.

“He had an engineer’s brain, a single-focused kind of guy while he was working and providing for his family, but that (medical mission trip) changed his perspective,” Kenneth Burr said. “All of a sudden, he had this different joy of helping people and it kind of carried through his whole retirement. He came back from Haiti a different guy and focused on doing things for others.”

The couple helped develop a Christian camp in Mexico, and Mr. Burr also spent time in Guatemala and more time in Haiti.

When not doing charitable work, the couple was often traveling around the country in an RV.

Mr. Burr jogged every day for decades. He joined two of his friends in hiking up the state’s top peaks.

“He liked being physical,” Kenneth Burr said of his father, who was still a competitive pickleball player at age 89. “He was quite an athlete. He loved to push his body, and he loved being out in nature.”


Mr. Burr also loved gardening — he was known for his fuchsias and giant dahlias — and birds.

“In the 1960s, he would listen to bird calls and learn how to identify them,” Kenneth Burr said.

Mr. Burr started losing his hearing around the time he moved to Stanwood in 1991, but he would tell his family that he was fine.

“Someone then said, ‘The birds here are amazing,’ and that inspired him to get a hearing aid,” Kenneth Burr said.

Kenneth said that when his mother, Ruth, became ill about a decade ago, his father did a great job of tending to her. She died in 2012.

“When she got ill for about three years, he tended to her all the time,” Kenneth Burr said. “I once said, ‘That’s quite a burden, Dad. You’re there 24/7.’ He said, ‘I count it as an honor to take care of her. She took care of me for years. It’s my honor and delight to take care of her.’ “


Mr. Burr married June Beckwith, a friend from college, in 2013. The two did extensive traveling, including taking a cruise around the horn of South America, and spending time on Bora Bora and the Solomon Islands.

Mr. Burr was walking a couple of miles a day, going to the gym a couple days a week and planning the couple’s next trip — a cruise down the Danube River — when he contracted COVID-19.

Mr. Burr is survived by his second wife, three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

“He was gentle, nonjudgmental and easygoing, and loved to meet people, especially after Haiti,” Kenneth Burr said, “He was a very well loved man.”