Shawnee School District honors Charles F. Burdick
Every year, the Shawnee School District No. 84 chooses one graduate of Shawnee High School at Wolf Lake to recognize his or her outstanding achievements beyond high school.
Areas of achievement may include, but are not limited to, academics, athletics, health care, law enforcement, military service, business, social work, public service and other fields of endeavor.
This year, the school district is honoring Charles F. Burdick.
Official recognition of this year’s outstanding graduate is planned at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, during Shawnee High School’s homecoming celebration.
At that time, the Shawnee graduate will receive public recognition for his achievements and will receive a plaque honoring his outstanding accomplishments beyond high school.
Burdick will receive recognition along with other outstanding Shawnee graduates on Shawnee High School’s “Perpetual Plaque” that will be on display in the high school.
The school district shared the following autobiography of Charles Francis Burdick:
I was born on October 24,1932, in a log house that stood on the side of a hill in Grand Tower Township, approximately four miles north of the city of Grand Tower. Back then it was Route 150 but is now known as Route 3.
I was the third child (of six) born to Frank and Jane Burdick although I would never know my first-born sister as she passed away shortly after birth.
My early education was at Big Hill School, which was a country school located at the corner of Route 3 and Turkey Bayou Road.
In the middle of the fifth grade my family moved into Grand Tower where I finished grade school. Grade school back then included first through eighth grade. In my junior year of high school, our school was consolidated and became Shawnee District 84.
At age seventeen and a half, one week after completion of high school I joined the United States Navy.
By joining at this age, I would get out on my twenty first birthday. I was sent to Great Lakes Naval Training Center for basic training.
From there I first served aboard the battleship USS Mississippi for a short time then volunteered to go on the USS Chilton APA 38 (Amphibious Personnel Assault) that was going to Korea.
My transfer was approved, and I went aboard my new home. The ship, however, never made it to Korea because of a major boiler malfunction.
I was trained to operate one of the twenty-seven landing craft carried aboard this ship. My boat was LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) 15. My rating at the time of discharge was Boatswains Mate Third Class (BM3).
All my Navy time was spent at sea. While serving aboard the USS Chilton I was on two different continents, Europe and Africa.
I visited many places and was able to see a large part of the world including Edinburgh, Scotland; Copenhagen, Denmark; Algiers, North Africa; Augusta Bay, Sicily; Marseilles, France; Cannes, France; Golf Juan, France; Izmir, Turkey; Rhodes Island, Greece; Piraeus, Greece; Athens, Greece; Oran, North Africa; Malaga, Spain; Naples, Italy; Rome, Italy, Gibraltar, and the islands of Malta, Crete, Sardinia, Cyprus and Capri.
I made two round trips across the Atlantic Ocean and traveled the North Sea, Tyrrhenian Sea, Aegean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
I also spent three months in the Caribbean Sea, visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Thomas, St. Croix and Vieques Island.
I received my Honorable Discharge at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 21, 1953. I had served just under three years and five months.
Shortly after finishing my naval service I went to work on the river. I would spend 42 years at this occupation and retired at age 62.
Most of my time on the river was in supervisory positions as mate, pilot and master. The navy had taught me as a Third-Class Petty Officer to never give an order to do something that you wouldn’t do yourself.
These words continued to resonate in my head during all my working years as a civilian and helped me be a successful supervisor respected by those I worked with.
During my river career I served aboard 36 different vessels of various sizes as captain or pilot and navigated a big portion of the Western Rivers and Intracoastal Waterway.
I held a Master’s License for Steam or Motor Vessel of all gross tons. A large part of my life has been spent on oceans, rivers, lakes, bays and sounds.
I was offered a Lieutenant Commander Commission in the United States Coast Guard but decided at the time that it was not a career move that I wanted to make. I also had the opportunity for a Marine Superintendent position but preferred to remain a captain aboard vessels.
I studied law by way of a correspondence program through LaSalle Extension University for four years and earned a degree.
At the time, this was not considered a formal education so no bar exam was allowed. I was a river pilot and had no desire to be a lawyer. I pursued it because I was interested in the material and enjoyed learning about it through a course of study from 1965-1969.
I have always taken an interest in local affairs and had the honor of serving Grand Tower for 16 years as alderman, one term as mayor, nine years as city clerk, and for a short time on the park board.
I was on the school board of Shawnee District 84 and served two years as Grand Tower Township Road Commissioner.
I also served for several years on the Jackson-Union County Port Authority Board and on the Shawnee Health Service Board. I have been a continuous member of the VFW and the American Legion for 65 years.
I was recognized and awarded a plaque from the mayor and city council of Grand Tower for work accomplished over the years on behalf of the city. At the ceremony for presentation of this plaque, a stone monument placed on the lawn of city hall in my honor was revealed.
While I have always been thankful for the opportunities I have had throughout my life to travel the world, there has never been a place that has meant more to me than home.
I am inspired by this rural area nestled in the southern part of Illinois that I have always known as home.
This inspiration along with an interest in history led me to write nine books, many of which focus on the history of Grand Tower and the surrounding area.
Also included in those nine books are publications about my time working on the river, my time in the navy, and poetry that I have written over a span of many years.
I have sold many copies of these books since publishing the first one in 2000. It is gratifying for me to be able to share my experiences and knowledge, and my passion for writing via this avenue.
My entrepreneurial endeavors included a family owned and operated hardware store in Grand Tower.
Also, my love of gardening naturally led me to share the fruits (vegetables actually) of my labor by selling the surplus of my crops through various markets and directly to individuals. It was because of bountiful crops of zucchini that led to my canning and distribution of a popular zucchini relish from an original recipe.
My wife Kathryn and I have been married for 56 years and we have a son Michael and daughter-in-law Luanne, and a daughter Angela and son-in-law Mazen. We also have four grandchildren, Sarah, Samir, Shane and Omar, and one great-grandchild, Amelia.
I have had a very fulfilling life. I take pride in the goals I have accomplished both personally and professionally over the years. I’ve always enjoyed interacting with people and learning new things. These experiences and adventures have given me many wonderful memories. I am thankful for family, friends, faith and all those who have been on this journey with me. It truly is a wonderful life.
‘I am inspired by this rural area nestled in the southern part of Illinois that I have always known as home.” Charles F. Burdick