During the early morning hours of April 6, 2021, at the age of almost 93 years, Albert Joseph Burghardt, “Al,” left our presence due to both advanced age and complications brought about by Parkinson’s. Al was surrounded with loved ones beside him to begin new adventures in his eternal home. At the time of his death he was residing in the assisted living section of Buffalo Hill Terrace in Kalispell.
Al was born in Eugene, Oregon, in May 1928 and lived most of his youth in Oregon. His family moved to Glendale, California, in 1944 where Al finished high school. The family then moved to Victorville, California, when his father bought a ranch on which the family lived and worked. Al, a bonafide city boy, clad in his argyle sweater, learned to grow alfalfa, buck hay and unsuccessfully reduce the bloat of a cow. While there he and his brother enrolled in Cal Poly. Al loved to fly and the two brothers used a Stearman biplane to commute to school from the ranch. After hearing his stories, it is a miracle he made it to 92, given the fact that planes don’t fly so well without fuel.
While attending Mass at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Victorville, he happened to sit in the choir loft and there he spied his future bride, Anna Anthony. In fact, as Anna was actually a participant in the church choir, Al attempted to get closer in proximity by also joining the choir. This attempt was short lived as the choir director rather rudely requested that he find another hobby since he “couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”
Not being one to give up easily, Al would often visit the Victorville Drug Store where Anna was a “soda jerk.” That was when World War II shortages necessitated that a chocolate shake be made with ice milk rather than ice cream. Anna, who was a tad smitten herself, found a way to be sure that Al’s shakes somehow contained real ice cream and kept him coming back for more. As their love bloomed, marriage seemed to be the next step in their romance. Al, who was always cautious in making big decisions, needed reassurance that proposing was the right choice. He wisely sifted through his numerous sources and decided to get this pivotal advice from Jack, the local pig farmer. Having Jack’s blessing, Al buried a ring in a piece of chocolate in a Valentine candy box in what he must have thought to be the most original idea ever. Of course, Anna said yes and they were married in November 1949.
Al and Anna are parents to eight children, two daughters and six sons. They started their family while in Victorville, continued in Redding, California, then more in Chico, California, and more again while living in Lake Tahoe, California. Apparently, they got along very well or were just slow to learn.
Al worked various jobs until he and his father purchased a lodge and boat rental business on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Al and Anna worked as owners/managers there for 18 years before selling the resort. He then built a few spec homes before becoming a partner in TNT Materials, a concrete mix company, also in North Tahoe. From there he and Anna retired to Lakeside, Montana, and subsequently Bigfork.
Al loved sports. He played basketball and baseball in his youth and became an avid golfer, especially after retirement while in Montana and when spending winters in Lake Havasu, Arizona. He and Anna gained many good friends through their golf activities and have been grateful for each of those associations. He took his golf game seriously and was very proud to have had a single digit handicap, his seven holes-in-one and especially to have made up the word ”Fosh,“ created seemingly in the moment when he missed a shot while simultaneously noticing his wife was within earshot. He was less than proud when watching his family play in the Burghardt scramble at the West Glacier Golf Course each reunion. He took it upon himself to zoom around in his golf cart to hurry up play, and was reported to have told one daughter-in-law that the A grade she earned in her college golf class was perhaps an unwarranted gift and she should get her money back for the course. Neither did he much enjoy when his young sons would hack about, land in a sand trap and giggle as they referred to it as “kitty litter.”
Al will be remembered as a man who could never tell a joke without messing up the punchline unless it was rather inappropriate, stepped way out of his comfort zone to adventurously declare beige as his favorite color, earned the nickname of “sweetlips” for his blunt assessment of the facts, and whose frugality was legendary. He worked hard his entire life and expected the same from his family, provided many opportunities for his children to become college educated and enjoy the wonders of Lake Tahoe, and he created a rich and fulfilling life for Anna and himself.
Al achieved many successes and, as many do, also faced deep heartbreak. Under that no-nonsense exterior Al had a tender heart which was tested when, as a young father, he held and comforted his infant son, David, as that child took his last breath. Al was a “closet softy” and even avoided movies that were sad as they pulled too hard on his heartstrings. He could not bear to see any injustice or cruelty portrayed, even in fiction.
Al leaves behind a legacy of being a faithful, absolutely devoted husband, a father who provided the tools to his children for building successful lives, a grandfather and great-grandfather who could tease and laugh with the little ones, an outgoing friend to many and, most importantly of all, a good and decent man who remained strong in his faith of God.
Al is survived by his wife of 71 and a half years, Anna, his children Gail (Bob) Oneal, Steve (Silvia Reynoso), Terri, Tom (Katie), Dan (Diane), Greg (Judy) and Jeff (Melissa). He is also survived by his sister, Margaret, grandchildren Matthew (Tracy) Douglas, Holly (Victor) Frasco, Justin (Stacey) Burghardt, Meghan (Josh) Singletary, Drew (Stephanie Rexus) Burghardt, Sammie Burghardt, Jon Burghardt, Alyssa (Jeff) Tkach, Alex (Mick) Cundith, and Amber (Jeff) Burkholder and 13 great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Roland and Bertha (McGuire), his brother Roland, his son David, and his grandson Russel.
The family is grateful to the Home Options hospice nurses and staff as well as the Buffalo Hill Assisted Living staff. They have been kind beyond measure and tender in their care. This challenging and heartbreaking time of watching our husband and father slip away has been tempered by the benevolence of their individual and collective hearts. They are heroes in the end of life care that all God’s children deserve.
A Catholic Mass and a memorial will be held on July 6, 2021 at 11:00 at John Paul II Catholic Church. Al’s ashes will be interred at Bigfork Community Cemetery at that time.
We ask that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Immanuel Foundation, either online at https://immanuelfoundation.org/our-work/ or by check to 40 Claremont St., Kalispell, MT 59901; or to the Bigfork Fire Department, 810 Grand Drive, Bigfork, MT 59911.
Until we meet again, may your heaven be full of light, laughter, and well groomed greens. P.S., avoid the kitty litter and don’t hold up play.
Friends are encouraged to visit the website www.buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolence for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.
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