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Lt. Col. Walter M. Burch

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Lt. Col. Walter M. Burch
Lt. Col. Walter M. Burch

Services will be held in Grand Rapids, Mich., with interment in Ellsworth, Mich., for U.S. Army Lt. Col. Walter M. Burch, Ret.

Burch, 85, a courageous aviator and soldier, and a great engineer, passed away Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2016, in Irvine, Calif., with his family lovingly holding his hands.

He was born in Oklahoma City, Okla., to Oscar and Urtis Burch and raised in Artesia.

Walter always wanted to fly, so he joined the New Mexico Air National Guard in 1949 while still in Artesia High School. He worked briefly in oil refineries for Frontier Natural Gas and Phillips in Artesia before joining the U.S. Army in 1955, where he earned a dual rating to fly fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

He served stateside, in Korea, two tours in Vietnam, with CENTAG at NATO Headquarters in Germany, and commanded Biggs Army Airfield at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, on his final assignment. Walter earned many decorations, including three Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart when his helicopter was shot down in Vietnam.

After 32 years in the military, he retired from the Army in 1982 and went to work in Southern California on missile systems for Ford Aerospace, Loral Aeroneutronic, and Lockheed Martin, retiring in 1997.

His family and colleagues remember him as a brave pilot, an excellent researcher, and a stickler for detail, but an easygoing man – serious most of the time but with a wonderful, dry sense of humor, a terrific smile, a warm heart, and strength of character.

He was a good and honorable man, quiet, reserved and sensitive, who passed his strong values of duty, loyalty, service and hard work to his children. He could fix just about anything, loved tinkering in his garage, and devoured military and spy novels. Words cannot describe how beloved he is and how much he will be missed.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Edna (Kooyer); daughters Christa Burch and Debra Ann Manser and husband Steve; son Walter M. Burch Jr. and wife Chaundelle; and grandchildren Melissa and Matt Manser, and Trenton Burch.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to a charity of choice.

Arrangements are under the direction of Matthysse Kuiper DeGraaf Funeral Chapel of Kentwood, Mich. Condolences may be expressed online at www.mkdfuneralhome.com/obituariesguestbook.

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