Burch leaves a legacy of activism

HANSVILLE — No one could have embraced the spirit of volunteerism more than Bob Burch.

After 12 years of giving to the community through various venues, Burch died Dec. 11. He was 85.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Burch was such a giving person as he was a well-known veterinarian in his professional field, taking care of many dogs and cats in Seattle for years.

Following his retirement, he continued to do what he did best — helping others.

After moving to Hansville in 1992, Burch founded the Hansville Huggers in the mid 1990s, promoting healthier living within the community. The group organized cruises, train trips, kite-flying events and a monthly dinner outing.

Before the Huggers helped out with the Hansville Neighbor’s Luncheons, the events would typically have anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of its seating empty. Now, RSVPs are required because Burch helped create interesting programs with professional speakers, which elevated attendance levels, said friend Red Denson.

“One of his greatest contributions is facilitating that to get the interest up and that has been great,” Denson added.

Burch’s enthusiasm spread throughout the community like a welcoming smile and several organizations were created as offshoots of the Huggers, including the Solitarians, the Better Halves and a community walking group.

Aside from creating and promoting events within Hansville, he encouraged his neighbors to visit other areas of the county by organizing trips to see concerts in Bremerton.

When Burch realized that others, like himself, liked to attend performing arts events but didn’t like to drive at night, he decided the only way to go was by bus. So he rallied together residents to purchase tickets for shows and help pay for a bus to head south.

As a result of this effort, there are now between 40-50 people who purchase season tickets and pay for a bus in advance, Denson explained.

“He has affected the community in that area by making them more accessible to the performing arts and the culture of the community,” he said.

Burch also made sure that the community retained its facilities. Before bringing his leadership to the Hansville Community Center Board, the center’s water came from a well system and was of poor quality. However, near the end of his six-year tenure on the board, he and other community members met with the Kitsap Public Utilities District and Kitsap County Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department to discuss improvements to the center. By June 2003, it was hooked into the KPUD system. He also rallied to ensure that Hansville didn’t lose its lease on the community center.

Steve Bauer, former president of the HCC Board, said he was in awe of the man and his never-ending energy.

“His commitment to the community. The vision to start the health and awareness programs. His generosity. His tenacity when he started on a project,” Bauer said when asked what qualities he admired in Burch.

“I think it will be a real loss,” he added. “He was a terrific guy.”

Burch’s obituary can be found on page A5.

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