Galen DeWitt Burghardt died of natural causes at home in his sleep Saturday, Nov. 5 at the age of 91.
His family was with him at the end.
Galen was a true native son and an island pioneer.
He was born at home in Seattle on Oct. 13, 1914 to Roy D. and Ethel Burghardt. In 1918, his family moved to Friday Harbor, where his father established the Light and Power Company. After some years, they returned to Seattle where Galen graduated from Queen Anne High School. During these years, he spent many fine summers at Camp Orkila.
In the early years of The Great Depression, his father’s electrical supply company failed. Seeking new opportunity, the family moved to Pierce, Id., where his father established another diesel driven light and power company. When his father died unexpectedly, Galen took over the operation and management of the sole proprietor business. Galen married Joyce Foote, of Seattle, in 1941. Sons Galen Jr. and Richard were born while Galen and Joyce resided in Pierce. Unable to compete with FDR’s public power program, Galen sold the business to Washington Water Power in the late 40s and brought the family back to Seattle. While there, Galen read about a resort for sale on Orcas Island.
The Burghardts set out in their Buick Roadmaster Sedan and, with stars in their eyes and romance in their hearts, bought Crescent Beach Cottages in 1949. Daughter Patricia was born, and Orcas has been their true home ever since.
They established themselves as true islanders by surviving the winter of ’49/’50, a winter that was so cold that their daughter Patty’s diapers actually froze to the floor at one point. When Spring arrived, and Galen and Joyce did not up and sell the resort, islanders embraced them as new members of the community.
In the years since, Galen has enjoyed a rich life in the community. He was one of five men (Dick Furrow, Tubb McGlinn, George Gow, and John Odell) who formed the Eastsound Water Users Association. Although the county told them they couldn’t do it, these men risked their own time and money to find an engineering firm and drill the well that would, for the first time in Eastsound history, be a source of plentiful, pure water.
Galen served on the Bishop’s Committee at what was then Emmanuel Mission (an Episcopal church that could not quite support itself), and it was in this capacity that he helped to call Father Glion Benson, for whom Emmanuel’s parish hall has been named.
All true island lives are varied, and Galen’s was no less so. He could be seen on stage in the 1950s as a Can Can dancer in the first March of Dimes fund raising event and in the 1990s as the sheriff in Oklahoma. He was a voracious reader of Pacific Northwest and maritime history. He was skipper of the charter boat Kilowatt II, which he and Joyce would take to the Canadian Gulf Islands for post-Labor Day fishing trips with their friends the Congdons, Gows and Odells and learn, after a stressful summer resort season, to speak lovingly with one another again. He and Joyce were charter members of the Orcas Island Yacht Club.
From 1957 to 1984, Galen and Joyce lived in Seattle. During these years, Galen followed a lifelong dream of going to sea and went to work as an engineer on ocean going tugs. He retired as a Chief Engineer for Crowley Maritime.
Since returning to the island, he has served on the vestry of Emmanuel Episcopal Church and has pursued his passions for building, landscape architecture, wetlands preservation and tool collecting. He and his son Dick made pilgrimages to Idaho nearly every year to retrace his life there and to intersect the journey of Lewis and Clark. He has appeared for the past several years in the 4th of July parade, riding in glory in the back seat of a Model T.
He is survived by his wife, Joyce, his children, Galen Jr., Dick, and Patty, his three grandchildren, Sarah, Galen W., and John, and his brother Kenneth.
A memorial service will be held at Emmanuel Episcopal Church this coming Saturday, Nov. 12 at 2:00. A reception in the parish hall will follow.
Donations may be made in Galen’s memory and honor to Faith in Action, the Orcas Senior Center, or the Emmanuel Church Memorial Garden.
May he rest in peace.