November 3, 2011 |

Burkhardt 'was always gung-ho'

Walter Burkhardt died at his Small Tracts Road home Oct. 25 surrounded by his wife and children. He was 86 and had dementia. The family plans a Juneau service later this fall.

Burkhardt lived most of his life in Juneau and worked as a mechanic for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, retiring in the early 1980s. He and Ann, his wife of 57 years, raised their five children there, but moved to Haines in 1991 because Ann was upset at the development on her family’s former property in Juneau.

"They cut all the trees on the point, and she couldn’t take it," daughter LuAnn Walker said.

Burkhardt enjoyed small-town life, including chatting up neighbors and store clerks. "He liked to visit with us girls at the bank. He always had stories to tell and he was an interesting person to listen to. We’ll miss him," Inez Gross said.

He fished and hunted moose, deer, and grouse from his 28-foot cabin cruiser White Ghost. Friend Fred Folletti said Burkhardt was a hard-working, serious man who was generous and physically fit.

Even into his seventies, "he liked to go to the very top of the mountain to get his deer. He was always gung-ho," Folleti said.

Burkhardt built trails in the woods behind his tidy home and planted flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. He maintained a well-tended lawn that featured statuettes of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He put them out each spring to please Ann, said daughter LuAnn Walker. "We had Dopey stolen one time, and he went out and bought another one. After that he chained them down."

Walter Edward Burkhardt was born in Wendell, Idaho in April 1925 to August Frederick Burkhart and Helen Justine (Zorn) Burkhart. He was the middle of nine children and was raised on a family farm in Grandview, Wash. "It was basically what they did to survive," Walker said.

He attended school through eighth grade and joined the Navy at 17. He served from 1942-9. He worked at McCord Air Force Base in Washington as a civilian mechanic for a few years before meeting Ann Reischl of Juneau who was traveling in the area. "When he asked her to marry him, he mailed the ring to her in Juneau," daughter Charla Aurdal said. They were married there in May 1953.

Burkhardt was a strict but loving family man who took in grandson Shane (Harnden) Walker during his high school years. "He loved to watch Shane’s cross-country meets and basketball games," Walker said. The Burkhardts took frequent trips to Juneau or down south in their RV to see family.

In his old age Burkhardt took to handing out dollar bills to children. "Mom would have to go to the parents and say, ‘It’s okay. He’s not scary, he just likes kids,’" Aurdal said.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by children Ralph of Haines, Charla Aurdal of Snohomish, Wash., Charles, Walter, and LuAnn Walker of Juneau, 12 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and three siblings.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Legion at P.O. Box 452 or the Haines fire department at P.O. Box 849. Cards to the family may be mailed to Ann Burkhardt at P.O. Box 988, Haines.