Aug. 23, 1932 – April 19, 2020
Bruce D. Burr spent 36 years working at Smallwood Drive School in Snyder – most of it as principal – before retiring in 1994.
“He adored that school,” said one of his daughters, Elizabeth B. Elliott.
And the feeling was mutual.
“No matter where my parents traveled, people would recognize them – ‘Dr. Burr, Dr. Burr!'” said his daughter.
Luckily, the longtime principal had a gift for remembering names and faces, so even if the student had graduated 20 years earlier, he could greet them by name, his family said.
A resident of Asbury Pointe,Getzville, he died April 19 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after being hospitalized 10 days earlier with Covid-19. He was 87.
“As a principal, his administrative style was to find excellent teachers, create an environment where they could thrive, and then let them teach,” said his son, Peter A. Burr. “He took great pride in the high quality of education provided by Smallwood Elementary School. He was grateful for the support of Smallwood School District residents, which he deemed a very important factor in the success of the students.”
An Army veteran who led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance at every assembly, Dr. Burr loved camping, hiking and nature study, and was a supporter of Smallwood Drive School’s Outdoor Education curriculum. An Eagle Scout, he volunteered as assistant scoutmaster for Troop 278 for a short time.
He was born in Buffalo, the first of two sons of Harold Llewellyn Burr and Alice Strebe Burr.
He graduated in 1950 from Kensington High School, where he played intramural basketball, football and baseball and was the 1950 Buffalo All-High Chess Champion, as well as a Buffalo All-High Tennis Doubles Champion.
Dr. Burr earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in elementary education at Buffalo State Teachers College in 1955, then taught for a year in North Tonawanda before entering the Army.
He served until late 1957 as a Private 1st Class in the Intelligence School at Fort Holabird in Baltimore, and was an instructor in counter-intelligence.
In 1961, Dr. Burr earned a master’s degree magna cum laude from Buffalo State and in 1970 a doctorate from the University at Buffalo.
On May 28, 1955, he married Barbara C. Scheitinger in Buffalo. They raised their children in Snyder.
“Every summer, we took a trip somewhere – all five of us and the dog!” said their daughter Elizabeth. The trips were typically to a national park or place of historical significance, such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Williamsburg or Gettysburg. “After all, there was always learning to be had!” she said.
Dr. Burr began his 36-year career at Smallwood Drive Elementary School in 1958, when he was hired as a teacher, a position he held for one school year. The next year, at 27, he became assistant principal. He was principal of the school from 1975 until he retired in June 1994.
In 1961, he received a National Science Foundation Grant for math education and spent the summer taking classes at Rutgers University.
He received a State Administrator’s Award for his support of the Smallwood School library and in 2013, received a Distinguished Educator Emeritus Award from the Amherst Central Schools Alumni Foundation.
Dr. Burr was an active member of the Buffalo State Alumni Foundation, which founded the Burchfield Center at Buffalo State in 1966. He was chairman of the Buffalo State Alumni Board in 1967. He was an adjunct professor at Canisius College, where he taught graduate level education courses.
He was a longtime member and served in leadership positions at Christ United Methodist Church in Snyder.
“He was a humble, modest man,” said Elizabeth Elliott. “His faith was very important to him.”
In retirement, he and his wife enjoyed traveling. An avid toy train collector, with most of his collection dating from his childhood, he especially enjoyed leading train trips for toy train enthusiasts in Europe and the United States.
He and his wife volunteered at Friends of the Night People and Habitat for Humanity.
The Burrs spent summers at the Chautauqua Institution, where they assisted with the renovation of the United Methodist House, for which he served as president of the Board of Trustees.
The couple spent winters in Dunedin, Fla., and were avid antiques collectors.
He was an accomplished bridge player and enjoyed golf. He adored his grandchildren and rarely missed a game, concert, play or event, his family said.
Besides Barbara Burr, his wife of nearly 65 years, he is survived by two daughters, Carolyn S. and Elizabeth B.; a son, Peter A.; and five grandchildren.
The family is planning a memorial service at his church at a later date.
Courtesy of the Buffalo News: