Opinion

The miracle of Kevin and Jill Burdick | Editor's Notebook

Kevin Burdick
Kevin Burdick's photo in the 1974 North Kitsap High School yearbook.
— image credit: Norene Reeves

Kevin Burdick is a humble, hard-working guy who loves his family and friends and is loyal to a fault. By all accounts, he wouldn’t think his story worthy of a lot of fuss. But his story is being told … on phone lines and over coffee, in churches and workplaces, at the swimming pool and the Sons of Norway Hall, in petitions to God for a miracle as esophageal cancer saps Burdick’s strength and his life.

And they are joyful stories. Joy, it seems, is a Burdick family trait. If you were a friend of the Burdicks, you were family. If you needed anything, Burdick’s parents, Uncle Bill and Auntie Elsie, would have your back. In fact, Uncle Bill was helping somebody the day he died. (Elsie’s spaghetti, I’m told, was the best in North Kitsap.)

Kevin and his wife, Jill, mirror his parents. Friends know them as Prince Charming and Princess. Inseparable. Never leave a room without saying, “I love you.” They are godparents to Norene and David Reeves’ three children — Jeffrey, 22, Mikal, 24, Ingrid, 20 — and have never missed a birthday or special event. Every birthday party features Jill’s lasagna, dubbed by those who’ve enjoyed it as “the best lasagna in the world.”

It would be tough to find a couple with a tougher work ethic, friends say. Besides raising a son, Bill, now 26, Kevin worked as a handyman in North Kitsap and Bainbridge, janitor at the Sons of Norway Hall, and delivered The Seattle Times and other newspapers, catching 45 minutes of sleep between jobs. Jill, who works part-time at Central Market, often worked with her husband at Sons of Norway and on the paper route.

“He’s the hardest-working guy I’ve known in my life,” said Jeffrey Reeves, an assistant swim coach for North Kitsap High School. Once, he and Burdick did some construction work at Reeves’ grandmother’s house. Burdick worked 6 1/2 hours non-stop, then left to work at the Sons of Norway. He would deliver his newspapers before dawn the next morning.

“I asked him, ‘When do you sleep?’,” Reeves recalled.

When Liz Campbell, Norene Reeves’ sister-in-law, was treated for breast cancer, Jill Burdick responded with lasagna and love. Fed the family and cleaned her house. “She took the gloves right off of me,” Campbell said. And after Campbell’s mother-in-law died, Jill checked in on her regularly, even as she cared for her own sick husband.

In July, Norene Reeves’ car broke down at Walmart and she called Jill Burdick. To Reeves’ surprise, Kevin, two months into his cancer treatment, showed up to get her car started. “That’s so Kevin Burdick,” she said.

Even now, in a hospital bed in Harrison Medical Center, as medication dulls his pain level from 10 to 4, Kevin Burdick will apologize for not staying awake during a visit.

His body is too tender to touch. Norene Reeves keeps a brave face, caresses his cheek, and says, “I love you.” And she prays for a miracle.

“I asked him to marry me when I was 4,” she said. “The standing joke between us is that he had to marry Jill so they could be godparents to my three kids.”

And the Burdicks aren’t complaining, even as cancer saps their finances. Kevin hasn’t been able to work since June, Reeves said. And Jill hasn’t been able to work enough hours to qualify for medical benefits for February and possibly March. “They could lose their home,” Norene Reeves said.

A benefit account has been opened at Kitsap Bank for the Burdicks. The nearest Kitsap Bank branch is at 19725 7th Ave. NE, Poulsbo. Visit www.kitsapbank.com for other branch locations.

Campbell said now is the time to give. And to pray. And to remember how precarious life can be, how precious every moment is. “That but for the grace of God go I,” she said.

In Poulsbo, people are praying for a miracle. But a miracle has already been performed: The miracle of Kevin and Jill Burdick and the lives they’ve touched.

— Richard Walker is editor of the North Kitsap Herald. Contact him at 779-4464 or rwalker@northkitsapherald.com. He’s praying.

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