Obituary of William Curtis Burkel
William C. “Bill” Burkel
William Curtis Burkel, 95, died November 12, 2023. He is survived by his children, Richard (Celia) Burkel and Kathy (Norman) Carlton; his grandchildren, Travis and Amy Burkel and Madeline and Forrest Carlton; as well as his companion of 15 years, Marcy Grover; and his brother, Paul. Bill is predeceased by his wife, Carol, of 56 years, and brothers Bert and Glen. The funeral service will be held at 10:00 a.m., Thursday, November 30th, 2023, at Bring’s Broadway Chapel. The viewing starts at 9:00 a.m., burial will follow at Tucson Memorial Park East Lawn. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Shriners Medical Center (details below).
Bill was raised on a farm in Michigan with his three brothers. After graduating from high school, he served in the Army, training as a paratrooper for 4 years. After his service, Bill began working for a construction company in Milwaukee building electrical power lines. Bill met Carol on a blind date and after getting married the pair moved to Tucson. Leaving their snow shovels behind, they moved West and Bill adopted his famous cowboy hat, boots, and bolo tie. He worked for Tucson Electric Power for 37 years, beginning as a lineman and retiring as a supervisor. Bill was a 75-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Bill’s house, which he lived in for 67 years, was one of the first houses built in the neighborhood, when Wilmot was still a dirt road on the edge of town. He planted orange trees in the backyard and enjoyed freshly squeezed orange juice every spring. Bill and Carol’s neighbors, like them, had come from all different states. With everyone’s families being so far away they all adopted each other and became one big happy family celebrating the holidays and life events together.
As Tucson grew, Bill brought power to most of the new neighborhoods, and he could tell you stories about installing power lines all over Tucson. Sometimes the desert wildlife turned into pets, including a desert tortoise who would hibernate under the bed, and a baby raven who was rescued from a nest that had to be removed from a power pole. As a chick without any feathers, Bill hand fed him until he was old enough to eat on his own. ‘Ray’ stayed in the neighborhood and loved scaring the neighborhood cats.
Bill has always been involved in his community, including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Masons, the Elks, the Lutheran Church of the King, and was a 50-year member of the Sabbar Shrine Temple. When the kids were young, he would cheer on Kathy and Richard’s swim meets and go camping as a family in the Chiricahuas. He enjoyed hunting and fishing; Peck Canyon was his favorite.
Bill enjoyed being a Grandpa and went to as many of his grandkids events as he could. This included Track & Field, Swimming, Cross Country, 4-H, Basketball, Cycling, and school productions. His eyes would light up when he talked about his grandkids. If you ever needed pancakes or chili cooked for a large group, Bill was the man to call. He had a restaurant sized gas griddle that he converted to propane, and he took it everywhere! He made his “Famous Buttermilk pancakes” for Boy or Girl Scouts campouts, the church’s Easter Sunday, or even on Mt. Lemmon for the Sahuaro High School Cross Country Team.
He took up woodworking and made many beautiful pieces along with lots of sawdust with his Shop Smith. He made beautiful wooden reindeer and sleighs, lamps, and wooden bowls for family and friends. As an avid stock car racer in his younger days, he enjoyed telling stories about attending the Indianapolis 500. Throughout his life, he spectated at races in Tucson, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, and was always willing to strike up a conversation about racing. Bill enjoyed traveling and good food, going on many adventures across the country with friends and family. He and his companion Marcy enjoyed dining out with friends and staying fit at the YMCA gym.
Bill will be remembered for his kind heart and strong will. He lived life to the fullest and told you what he thought whether you wanted to hear it or not. He never met a microphone he didn’t like. He was an announcer for Shriners parades in southern Arizona and a bingo caller at the Shriners Hall with plenty of jokes and commentary. He was told more than once to “Just call the numbers!” Bill tended the bar whenever the need arose at Shriner gatherings. By popular demand, he made margaritas for Tasty Tuesdays right up until his hospitalization.
He was a great husband, father, grandfather, companion, brother, uncle, friend, and neighbor. He will be greatly missed.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Bill’s memory to the Shriners Hospital in Pasadena. He visited there and saw firsthand the difference the Shriners’ fundraising makes for children with disabilities.
In Bill’s favorite parting words, “catch ya later”, Bill, we love you.
Shriners for Children Medical Center
Pasadena, CA 91105
Contact – Celia Smith 626-389-9300To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of William Burkel, please visit our Tree Store