Harold Burchett passed away peacefully on September 18, 2008, surrounded by his family. He was 87 years old.
He was born in Van Wert, IA, on September 26, 1920, to William and Bessie Burchett. After the death of his mother when he was 7, he was raised by various relatives; at the age of 17, Harold joined the Marine Corps. After his enlistment ended, he sent for his sweetheart back in Iowa, Margaret Chipp, and they were married in February 1940.
Harold and Margaret settled in Fallbrook in 1941, managing the Henry Fonda Ranch in Stewart Canyon. Their first son, Gary, was born while they were living there, in August of 1941.
Harold was drafted back into the Marine Corps in 1943 for World War II, during which he served as the ship’s barber for the USS Shangri-la. Returning from the war in 1945, he became manager of the Yarnell Ranch, where he and Margaret lived and worked for 17 years. In February of 1947 their second son, Gene, was born.
Making his living in agriculture, Harold also saw a need to help the youth of the area and dedicated his life to the next generations of his community. He was instrumental in starting the Country Kids Program, which held dances, picnics and other fun activities for the kids in the area.
Harold saw a need for organized sports and started the first youth baseball program. With the help of the community in donations of uniforms and equipment, it is still a huge part of Fallbrook to this day.
He also started the adult baseball league in Fallbrook when he saw the desire for many adults to play the sport. He coached, organized and was a player. Even after breaking his leg during a game, he continued to play and participate until the age of 60.
In 1953, Harold and Margaret joined the Reche Club, a community service club, to help not only the community but to help preserve Fallbrook’s first schoolhouse. Harold served six separate terms as president of the club, and he and Margaret were presented permanent honorary membership in the club after years of dedication to the cause.
Harold organized the Optimist Club of Fallbrook, which was chartered in January of 1956. It is an organization that works for the youth in various communities, with all proceeds going to the kids and their endeavors. He was a charter member and a board member many times over during the years and the club thrived under his leadership.
He helped organize and start the Live Oak 4-H club because he saw the need for it. It grew so large it had to be split into the Rainbow, Fallbrook, Red Mountain, Galvin Mountain and Bonsall 4-H clubs.
In 1956, Harold decided the local 4-H and FFA kids needed prior experience showing animals before the Del Mar Fair. In the spring of that year, the first annual Fallbrook Youth Fair was held at the Reche Schoolhouse. Later, due to its size, it was moved to Fallbrook High School.
Harold brought in artists and the garden club to exhibit in the beginning and convinced community leaders to help with the cost of ribbons for each exhibitor. From 1956 to 2008, he was a figurehead at each fair. Even when he was frail, he was seen watching the crowds. Any child was welcome to exhibit a craft or project and literally thousands of kids have done so over the years.
Harold also helped start the Fallbrook Ag Booster Club, which at one time was one of the most active in the state. He was instrumental in working at the Pioneer Parade (now the Fallbrook Avocado Festival), helping organize the kids’ floats and entries.
In 1988, Harold was awarded Fallbrook’s “Citizen of the Year.” In 1997 his granddaughter, Tashia Miner, nominated him for, and he was awarded, the Channel 10 News Leadership award in San Diego.
Harold’s passion for providing enrichment programs for the youth of his community was his lifelong endeavor. Through his dedication not only to his family but to the community, thousands and thousands of people have benefited from his selflessness and willingness to go above and beyond to help the future generations. He was once quoted saying that “youth is our most precious resource.”
He was preceded in death by his wife of 62 years, Margaret Burchett, in 2001 and his son Gary Burchett in 2007.
He is survived by sister Mildred Vestle; son Gene Burchett; daughter-in-law Dawn Burchett; grandsons Greg Burchett (Lori) and Craig Burchett (Cassie); granddaughters Tashia Miner (Tom), Alisha Fleming (Jamie), and Timeree Kristell (Kevin); great-grandsons Kenton Kristell, Gavin Burchett, Seth Burchett, Logan Burchett, Gregory Burchett, and Garrison Burchett; and great-granddaughters Savanah Fleming, Kailee Kristell, Hunter Fleming, and Brenna Cowan.
Memorial services will be held on Saturday, October 25, at 2 p.m. at the Fallbrook Presbyterian Church, located at 463 South Stage Coach Lane. Refreshments will follow at the community hall on the church grounds.
For more information and directions, visit http://tkristell.googlepages.com/haroldburchett.