Eugene Burrill is remembered as a caring person and business leader

A name that has crossed every economic and educational strata, Eugene F. Burrill, died December 11, 2008, just five days after reaching his 89th birthday.
    
Eugene Burrill played a prominent role in everything from the Prospect Jamboree and Timber Carnival to the board of the Rogue Valley Medical Center and even played host to President George Bush in 1992.


"He made friends easily and kept them forever. He left a legacy for the
entire valley," noted Olive Lansburgh, who served on the Rogue Valley
Medical Center Board of Directors with Burrill.
   
Burrill was
born Dec. 6, 1919 in Vancouver, Washington to Simeon "Sim" Wilson and
Lucille Elizabeth Wheeler Burrill. During the Great Depression, the
family put all their possessions in and on the top of the family car
and headed south to northern California where Sim did whatever work he
could find or joined the family picking fruit. Burrill said he attended
between 10 and 15 schools in three years.
   
On Dec. 16,
1939, he married Gladys Johnson. The following year, at the age of 21,
he bought his first mill. The purchase was from the man he had been
working for who announced he was retiring the old mill. Burrill bought
it for $250 on a payment plan. Technically, said Marla K. Cates in her
biography of Eugene F. Burrill, The Mill in the Brush, Eugene F.
Burrill Lumber was born.
   
Over the years, Burrill was to own,
tear down and move a number of mills, each time building a larger one.
In 1942, under the guidance of Ben Cheney, he settled on a piece of
timber on Red Blanket Creek. Cheney helped a number of small mill
operators get started to help supply his operation.
   
Burrill
was drafted in the fall of 1944. He sold the mill and moved the family
to Washington to be close to his parents. After the war they returned
to Prospect. It wasn’t long after the war that Glenn Jackson convinced
Burrill to build a mill in White City and Burrill leased 20 acres and
built the operation that by 1988 employed 200 and produced 100 million
board feet of lumber. Ten years later, after dealing with so many
changes in the timber industry and the economy, Burrill closed the
mill. Between 1989 and 1995, 111 mills closed in Oregon.
    "Don’t
ever do something that is wrong. If you do something wrong, admit it
right away, get it behind you and start doing it right. But don’t ever
short change anybody," was one piece of the Burrill philosophy.
   
Burrill
cared very much about Prospect and southern Oregon. He believed in
giving and sharing. He spent 20 years on the Prospect School Board,
where he was first elected in 1955. He helped start the Prospect
Jamboree and Timber Carnival and in 1993 he and his wife were Grand
Marshals of the event. He supported Prospect Ambulance, and was very
instrumental in Mercy Flights. He helped establish the Prospect Airport
in 1964, served on the board of Rogue Valley Medical Center from 1974
to 1992, served on the Rogue Basin Flood Control Board from 1960-1995,
was a member of the Jackson County Airport Commission for the decade
1967-77, and was involved with Southern Oregon Timber Industry
Association, National Aircraft Owners & Pilots, Prospect Lions, and
Mercy Flights Ambulance, all from the 1950s to 1990s.
   
The
importance of community involvement is one of the legacies Burrill left
to his son, Mike, and to Mike’s sons, Curt and Mike, Jr.
   
Burrill
is survived by his wife, Gladys, son, Mike, daughters, Sandra Knudson,
Medford, Celeste Sweat, Central Point, Gina Burrill, Camano, Wa., and
Helen Ashley, Keizer, Ore., 17 grandchildren and 22
great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in early January.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent
    

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