On August 30, 2013 the world lost a real treasure when Father Francis F. Burch passed away. Father Burch was a true gentleman. He was graceful, and he was kind. He could also lay you out flat with his Algonquin Roundtable wit if you crossed him. He was seldom crossed.
Father Burch was an English professor at Saint Joseph's University. I first met him when I was placed in his class freshman year. By the time that first class on my first day was over I knew that I just had to take as many classes with this man as I could. Over the next few years I was in Father Burch's classes 5 more times. I even found myself taking his classes even if I didn't need the credits, and in place of credits I did need.
Father Burch had as big an influence on my becoming a man than anybody. Through watching and listening I learned how to carry myself, and how to deal with people.
I kept in touch with Father after I left SJU via e-mail and the occasional letter. He would close each one with "Let's do lunch". We never did do lunch. I never found the time. I guess the truth is that I never really looked for time. Friends, learn from my mistake and do all you can to not have any regrets.
In my time of grief, Father Burch would have told me to simply "write". I'm trying, but it seems as though I've lost that ability at the moment. He wouldn't be proud of me for that. In place of new words to honor Father Burch, I leave you with old ones. Below is the only paper I kept from my college days. It's the only "A" I ever got from Father Burch. That "A" is my single proudest moment in academia, and as a writer.
Rest easy, my friend. Thank you for everything.
***Below is an essay I wrote in December if 2008. It was my junior year, and Father Burch asked to to write a short essay about family, and bond. Something we would include in our own collection of works***
Incoming Call: Baseball
I had always called myself a baseball fan -- even though I wasn't. I said I was because it was the cool thing to do; play for your school, or the local boys club, and go to Phillies games at The Vet, which I did because my parents always had season tickets, but I wasn't an actual fan. To be honest, when my mom and brother would sit still in their seats and watch every Tommy Greene fastball zip by at 90 miles-per-hour, whizzing past the batter's empty swing and cracking into Darren Daulton's cather's mit pushing him back as though his bullet-proof vest-like chest protector just deflected a thirty caliber bullet, I was off on my own buying hot dogs, or running up and down the steps annoying Tony, our usher.
It wasn't that I didn't like baseball, because I did. I just enjoyed playing T-ball for Summerdale Boy's Club, and having catches with my dad and brother, Bobby. I remember my dad always telling Bobby and I to "make sure to use a tennis ball, just in case you hit a car". We did, and it was a good thing too, because we always did manage to hit a car -- coincidentally it usually ended up being my dad's. However, I was not one to sit down and watch a game, or memorize statistics and players numbers. No, I much rather preferred pro-wrestling and action figures.
Then one night, when I was about eight years old my dad took me to a Phillies game -- just the two of us, but we didn't sit in our usual season ticket seats. For this game, my dad somehow got his hands on two tickets for two very special seats. We sat in the first row off the field on the third baseline in foul territory. This was the first time that I truly paid attention to a game. I don't know if it was because I enjoyed watching, or because my dad warned me to stay alert, because foul-balls come screaming down the line and if you're not paying attention you could find yourself in the back of an ambulance when you regain consciousness.
I don't remember who was up to bat, but I do remember him hitting a foul ball that bounced down the line and headed towards us. "Get it, Den! Get it!" my dad yelled in excitement. My arms were too short and I never could have reached the ball, so my dad, who has never been the most athletic guy, leaned over the rail and threw his arm in a mix of about five other arms fighting for the ball. He didn't come up with the ball, but boy did he try. "Sorry, son" he said, probably thinking I would be upset that he didn't get it. I wasn't. I was just happy to be there with him.
I couldn't tell you who hit a home-run, or struck out that night. I couldn't even tell you if the Phillies won or lost, but I can tell you that being there with my dad, sitting so close to the field, and even almost getting a foul-ball was enough to open my eyes to baseball.
Fast forward twelve years and over 300 attended games later. It's October 29, 2008. I'm cold, a little wet, and just as excited as I was twelve years earlier as a little boy watching his dad reach for a foul-ball. My dad's not with me at this game, instead I'm with my mom who over the years has become my baseball buddy. The Phillies are resuming a rained-out game five of the World Series. Brad Lidge hurls a strike three to win the game, and I immediately take my phone out of my pocket to call my dad, but I don't ever have to press a button. I flip open my phone and see; Incoming call: Dad Cell.