Burke Critchfield of Friday Harbor, Washington, passed away peacefully in his home after a short illness, surrounded by his family on May 9, 2018. He was 87 years old.
Burke is survived by his children, Pam Critchfield of Oakland, California and Brad Critchfield (Mary) of Auburn, California; his granddaughter and five grandsons; one great-grandson; his brothers Verne and Harry; and his devoted dog Summer and his ornery cat Nugget. He was preceded in death by his wife of 56 years, Paula.
Burke was born on June 28, 1930, in Deadwood, South Dakota to Harry and Kathryn Critchfield. He graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1952 and served in the United States Army from 1953-57. While stationed in Juneau, Alaska, as a special agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps he met Juneau-native Paula Cook and they were married in 1955. Their daughter Pam was born a year later.
During his service in the CIC, Burke became interested in pursuing a career in law. In 1957, he entered the University of South Dakota Law School in Vermillion, graduating in 1960. Soon after, Burke and Paula moved to California where Burke passed the California bar exam and began working for a large law firm in San Francisco. In 1961, their son Brad was born.
Once Burke decided he “wouldn’t make partner at the big firm until the next century,” he and Paula moved to Livermore, California where he joined an acquaintance of his uncle in private practice. During his years in practice in the Livermore Valley, Burke was very active in numerous civic organizations, including the Alameda County Bar Association, serving as president in 1979. Soon after, he was elected to the California State Bar Board of Governors and in 1984, he was elected president of the state bar.
After his stint with the state bar, Burke became a delegate to the American Bar Association and he founded the Alameda County Law Library Board of Trustees, serving as president. At the time the library board was founded, the law library was housed in the Alameda County Courthouse. Burke was instrumental in the purchase, expansion and relocation of the library into its new building. He always viewed the library project as one of his proudest accomplishments.
In 2001, Burke and Paula retired to San Juan Island where they had built their dream home on the west side. During retirement, Burke was a proud member of the San Juan Island Yacht Club, the Friday Harbor Power Squadron and the Presbyterian Church. Besides his family, one of Burke’s greatest joys was boating on his trawler, the Grand Nugget, named in honor of his and Paula’s cranky cat.
Although Burke had some history with boats, when he retired to the San Juans, he threw himself into learning everything he could about all aspects of boating. He loved cruising the San Juan and Canadian Gulf Islands on yacht-club cruises and with his family during summer vacations. Burke served as fleet captain at the yacht club and chief vessel inspector with the power squadron.
Burke’s gift was to make everyone he met feel special. All those he touched would agree that he was the sweetest, most positive, spunky, flirtatious, dapper and fun-loving guy around. He was a great dad and grandpa and a warm, kind and generous friend to countless people. As a longtime family friend described him, “Burke was a force.” He loved life and lived it to the fullest. He will be deeply missed.
The family would especially like to thank the wonderful caregivers who tirelessly looked after Burke over the last several years and to hospice for their kind help during his recent illness.
A memorial service will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 24, 2018, at the Friday Harbor Presbyterian Church immediately followed by a celebration of Burke’s life to be held at the San Juan Island Yacht Club. All are welcome to attend and celebrate Burke’s life.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in Burke’s name to the Animal Protection Society Friday Harbor (www.apsfh.com) or the United States Power Squadron Education Fund at U.S.P.S. Education Fund, Friday Harbor Power Squadron, P.O. Box 53, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.
Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel of Anacortes, Washington. To share a memory of Burke, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.