HAMILTON - Frederick Baldwin Burnham was born on October 9, 1931 in Oxnard, California, to John and Constance Burnham. He was the youngest of four boys. When Fred joined the family his brother John was 13, Bill 12, and David 7. Fred’s family moved to North Hollywood when he was seven, and shortly after to South Pasadena where he attended Marengo Grammar School, South Pasadena San Marino Junior High School, and graduated from South Pasadena San Marino High School with the class of 1949. “Freddie” lived one street over from his future wife, Laurie Cook, from the time they were in fifth and eighth grades. When Laurie was in seventh grade and Fred in tenth they were in a neighborhood football game with Laurie and her best friend, Carol, as captains. Laurie had first pick and picked Fred because he was the oldest. Unfortunately, Freddie, believing a girl could not play as well as Laurie could (didn’t he know she had football experience with a future 49ers coach, Mike Giddings, after all?!?), would not throw the ball to her. College years were spent at Pomona, the Coast Guard Academy, and UCLA where he participated in ROTC and majored in Business Administration. Fred’s football skills were appreciated at both Pomona and at the Coast Guard Academy.
Following college, Fred entered the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant, beginning at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Fred came home to South Pasadena for two weeks prior to deployment to Korea. Near the beginning of this visit he happened to walk home down Laurie’s street rather than his usual route one street over and, in spite of the football fiasco nine years earlier, interest was kindled and they saw each other every evening for the remainder of his visit. Upon arrival in Korea at the age of 23 in 1954, he found himself as the temporary commander of the entire base. The current commander wanted to “get out of there” and they were waiting for a new one. What a responsibility for such a young man! That duty lasted for a 16-month duration. The war was over, but trouble was not, and many unpleasantries occurred that this principled young man handled to best of his abilities, which was very, very well. Letters were daily exchanged with Laurie.
Fred and Laurie were married on September 7, 1957. Their first home, an upstairs apartment in and old, run down estate, with a kitchen in a converted closet that provided good memories of their first Thanksgiving turkey, was in Santa Barbara (Montecito) where he was employed by Aerophysics Development Corporation. Their firstborn, Billy, was born in 1959, at which time the family moved to Mountain View, California, for Fred’s new employment as a Contract Administrator with Stanford Research Institute. Steven was born at home in 1960.
In November of 1961 the family visited Fred’s mother and brother in the beautiful Bitter Root Valley. Fred’s mom had previously visited friends (Mae Ford of the Ford Hollister Ranch, now known as Chief Joseph Ranch, the Twogoods and the Wetzsteons) and knew this was the place she wanted to live out her days. That’s all it took, and the move to Montana was made in 1962, exchanging a white-collar job with a hour long 10-mile commute for learning the logging business in the rugged beauty of western Montana. They arrived on April 13, 1962. In 1964 daughter Barbara was born and the family was complete, other than the many dogs and kitties added over the years.
Fred worked his logging business for years, departing before light and returning home after the light was gone. He decided to look for other opportunities and taught himself how to repair televisions by building one from a kit. Armed with his new knowledge, he opened a television business out of a shop at home. He also equipped his black television “doctor bag” and responded to house calls to repair the televisions of fellow Bitterrooters. On April 1st (April Food’s Day), 1972, Fred purchased the land that would become Gas ‘n Grub. It had a gas station on the south portion and a junk yard with two old houses on the north. Fred cleaned up the north end and named the business North Side Center, which tells a lot about the growth of Hamilton. Fred expanded the gas station building, adding a television display floor, yet planning for the future by putting lube bays under the carpeting. When Fred exited the television business, the carpet was lifted and an auto mechanic and tire shop was made ready. North Side Center evolved and changed through the years and was home to Fun ‘n Games, the best sub sandwiches ever, the Fountain Restaurant, Spot Free Car Wash, and Richland Ice Cream (Fred had always wanted to make ice cream, and his signature blend was delicious!). Fred operated his business for 40 years with self-discipline, focus, and determination.
During Fred’s 15 years of life in Corvallis and 40 years in Hamilton, he enjoyed many activities: elk and antelope hunting, Square Dancing with the Gay Sashays, being a Boy Scouts of America Webelos leader (Fred had been an Eagle Scout, himself), backpacking with friends, family and alone, biking with friends and alone (he bike toured New Zealand in the mid 80’s), boating at Lake Como, piloting his Cessna 210 turbo, singing at church and with the Bitter Root Valley Chorus (for 40 years). In his later years he found great joy with his church and at his cabin he built in his mountain property, lovingly called Burnham Wood. He was a faithful attendee at his church men’s breakfasts where he, not content with trivial talk, would inspire thought provoking conversations.
Fred loved God, his family, Burnham Wood, and his dogs (Bonnie, Tippy, Skipper, Early, Sunny, Nugget, Punkin, Happy and Rocky) with all his heart. He risked his life to save his beloved Punkin when she fell into a frozen pond in December of 2013. His passing was peaceful and he was surrounded by love, behind him here and embracing him there. He will be greatly missed until we meet again.
Fred was preceded in death by his beloved brother Bill in 1943 and brother John in 1956, both Naval Aviators killed stateside during training activities, his respected father John in 1952 when Fred was 21, his energetic and spontaneous mother Connie in 1967, and his brother David in 2012.
Fred is survived by his wife of 60 years, Laurie; children Bill of Grantsdale, Steve (Katrina) of Naples, Idaho, Barbara (Champ) Edmunds of Darby; grandchildren Heather of Missoula, Hillary of Corvallis, Jesse of Missoula, Terry of Corvallis, Alicia of Naples, Idaho, Meredith of Napa, California, and Kara of Eugene, Oregon; great-grandchildren Grace, Kioni, and triplets Zaiden, Linden and Kian; and nieces, Donna Evans of Guntersville, Alabama and Joy Burnham of California.
Memorial services will be held on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, at 4 p.m. at the Daly-Leach Chapel with a reception following in the funeral home’s community room. Condolences may be left for the at www.dalyleachchapel.com.