A Tribute to Bob Burns
by Joe Linscott
I first met Bob Burns when he called on Betty and me for an appointment to discuss insurance. This was probably late sixties. Needless to say, we bought a policy from him. The next time I met Bob, he asked me to help paint a large storage building that would serve as a storage building and locker room for Cony football. Bob was involved in the funding for this structure which was built at the Vo-Tech center and then moved to Capitol Park.
During the seventies, I coached the Kirschner team in Augusta East Little League and Bob’s son Stuart was a team member. Bob was a very supportive parent, and I could see that Stuart had a lot of parental support from both Bob and Sharon as well as his siblings Rachel and Jay. Stuart was a pleasure to coach and both parents were very supportive although I am sure that Bob questioned some of my coaching decisions, but we are all guilty of that at times. Bob left Augusta East about the time I entered but he always attended Stu-arts games and made sure he was at practice, and we did practice a lot.
CARA was formed in 1974 and Bob was the representative of American Legion Post #2. Although Post 2 was unable to follow through with plans to build a field, Augusta East Little League was experiencing growing pains and needed additional field space and wished to expand their facility. I had mentioned this to Bob on several occasions and he told me that he could provide contractors and equipment to build a new field should Augusta East Little League approve plan to do so. I relayed this information to the AELL board of directors, and the decision was made to go ahead based on Bob’s assurance that most of the work would be donated.
The day construction began, there were seventeen pieces of heavy equipment, some of which were manned, and others were operated by volunteers. Bulldozers, front end loaders, graders, and trucks take up a lot of space and we almost needed a traffic cop to prevent gridlock. Bob came through on his promise and the field, known today as Linscott Field became a reality.
The aforementioned project was just the beginning for Bob. Augusta Babe Ruth League had a pressing need for a new facility as Capitol Park was not sufficient to support a league that was comprised of as many as 12 teams. Through stroke of luck, a local trust fund was discovered which along with the generosity of the Augusta National Guard Armor Committee provided substantial funding for the construction of two fields now known as McGuire and Morton Field.
This funding was a great help but did not completely cover all of the anticipated costs. Bob was able to arrange an agreement with Dick Condon, a local contractor and good guy, whereby Condon would stockpile and remove existing loam to be used in a project at the Augusta State Airport, paying ABRL a very favorable rate for the loam and in return Condon would perform grading at both fields as a set off. In addition, Bob also used his power of persuasion to obtain favorable arrangements with other local contractors.
At one CARA meeting, Bob very quietly indicated that he had a group that wanted to build a facility in the CARA complex. Bob also indicated the group had funding and were ready to begin construction. This was a surprise to all of us on the CARA board as we had no previous knowledge of such a group, but Bob was looking to get the complex developed and used his initiative to bring the Kennebec Valley Horseshoe Pitchers into the fold. This group has been a welcome addition and encompasses all age groups and genders.
There have been few projects in the CARA complex that Bob has not been involved with. Some projects he played a much more active role than others but he and I both shared common goals of creating the best recreational complex in the State. Over the years, Bob and I played golf many times and our conversations usually focused on a discussion of what our next project would be and what needed to be done to improve what was already in existence. I have never been short of ideas, but Bob had the connections within the community to provide the funding and donations necessary.
One of the major fundraising activities of CARA has been the annual golf tournament. Bob, Garry Markoff, Bud Folsom, and I started this event in 2005 as a social event with the possibility of raising some money for the CARA complex. The first year we started with 40 golfers and netted about $2,000.00. The second year we increased the number of players to 120 and also increased the net proceeds which have been used for capital improvements. It became apparent that Bob would take this project under his wing, and he certainly did. He loved to solicit and was very good at it. His background as an insurance agent helped immensely as he knew everyone.
In recognition of Bob’s dedication to the golf tournament, the tournament committee named the golf tournament- the Bob Burns CARA Open. Fittingly, this was done while Bob was still living.
Bob always had a love of cooking, and this stimulated him to completely revamp the kitchen facilities at Augusta Babe Ruth. He added a grill, fryolator, extra coolers, and expanded the menu at the facility. In addition to doing the bulk of the ordering, he also manned the kitchen on many occasions. When he wasn’t in the kitchen, he was usually selling 50-50 tickets. We could not play golf on the day of a Cony game as Bob felt a need to open the kitchen. I always accused him of having a selfish motive in spending so much time in the kitchen surrounded by young, good-looking mothers, but he, of course, denied this.
Bob’s volunteering is certainly admirable, but many times loved ones are neglected. This was not true in Bob’s case. One of Bob’s most admirable characteristics was his devotion to his family including his wife, children, and grandchildren. Certainly, Sharon, Rachel, Jay, Stuart, Josh, Jeremiah, and Nicole can be very proud of Bob.