Richard Burry (1931-2009) by Merle Bowers of Lee's Summit
June 26, 2010
Richard Burry (1931-2009)
By Merle Bowers, Tribune Contributing Writer
Tribune Photo / Merle Bowers taken at Neighbor's Cafe.
In 1975 after serving four years, Richard Burry, Sachem Silver Blue Smoke was no longer the Scoutmaster of Troop 220 of Lee’s Summit Mo. However, he continued to be my Scoutmaster until March 17, 2009 when he passed from among us. (Again, there is one of those nicknames. Keep reading)
Long before Richard became the Scoutmaster of Troop 220, he served his country in the Air Force during the Korean conflict. According to his son Charlie, it was an illness that prevented him from joining his unit overseas. He served with a unit stationed near Sacramento California where they were responsible for retrieving air samples over the Pacific when nuclear testing was done. His picture is proudly displayed at Neighbor’s Café In Lee’s Summit, where he frequently had coffee with friends. Richard was a member of the Shrine and the Masonic Lodge.
He was the husband of Hilda Burry and the father of Charlie, Keeper of the Sacred Bundle Little Silver Blue Smoke; Leroy, Warrior Least Silver Blue Smoke and Dixie. His two boys earned the Eagle Rank in scouting and each of his children has grown into successful adults.
Richard owned a clothing store in Lee’s Summit, named Browning Brothers. When I became a Junior Deacon at my church, my parents insisted that I wear a suit. They took me to Browning Brothers where Richard made me feel like I was a CEO, going in for his big presentation. He not only sold you the suit, he made you feel special when you wore it out of his store. He was an entrepreneur, before it was the trendy thing to do.
In 1971, the Scout Troop 220 was busting at the seams with boys and adult leaders. However, they were in need of a leader to move the unit to the next level. In stories I was told later as an adult, a group of adults led my Merle McConnell, Mike Ford and my father, Hillis Bowers, met with Richard Burry and basically told him he would be the Scoutmaster of Troop 220. As the story was told to me, he was not given the choice although he had every excuse in the book why he should be passed over for this. I was told that Mike Ford told him “the troop has leaders, but they need A leader. You are the man to be their leader.”
Richard served as Scoutmaster for 4 years, seeing several boys earn the Eagle rank(the highest rank in scouting) and advance in the Tribe of Mic-O-Say(the source for the mentioned nicknames in this and previous entries.) Richard himself earned the Silver Acorn while serving the Troop. After resigning as Scoutmaster, Richard went on to serve as Tonka District Chairman and on the camp staff at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation.
My fondest memories of Richard are the way he could shake you out of bed in the morning with his booming voice, but then warm your heart with the twinkle in his eye and the smile of his face. This while clinching his pipe firmly in his teeth, the smoke from that pipe the inspiration for his Tribal name.
When we ventured out of campouts, Richard’s car was the popular choice. He drove big station wagons and seemed to arrive at the camp out 20-30 minutes before anyone else. As soon as he was out of the car, he would fire up his chain saw and be cutting wood for the weekend’s campfires.
His tenure as Scoutmaster of Troop 220, did come to an end, but I mentioned he was my Scoutmaster until the day he died. His life and example continued to influence me and will inspire me in years to come.
Oh Worthy Sachem, it is well!