The claims of Covid-19
It is indeed the Time of Covid. The negative impact of this pandemic varies from individual to individual and family to family, whether it is sickness or economic stress.
The impact of death, however, does not vary. It is always devastating regardless of who is lost.
For instance, a Blytheville businessman just succumbed to Covid-19, and the loss of Kenny Burge reaches deep and wide into our community.
I always have envied people who can be consistently nice and patient even in the face of conflict, and Kenny Burge could do just that.
Some years back, I visited Burge’s Shoe Store with my out-of-state relative and her 3-year-old, my goal being to provide a fun outing while gifting the tiny one with new shoes she would love.
It was some 45 minutes, several little fits, and nine boxes of shoes later—yes, nine—that I went behind the shelves to apologize to Kenny for the nightmare. His response? “She is beautiful! We want to find something she will really like.” With a big smile, of course. And out he came with four more boxes! That was Kenny Burge. A businessman and a gentleman.
Kenny, the gentleman, was also a gentle man—a man who once spoke to me about his own father, shedding tears as he expressed the blessing of having a good dad—a father who set an example for him and stood with him unconditionally. A father who taught him the value of community.
And the value of community stuck. No one can argue the contributions Kenny Burge made to the Blytheville-Gosnell area. His dedication to the Blytheville Baseball Softball program was unsurpassed. Year after year he worked to assure this amazing program for area children succeeded. In recent times, when the program faced challenges, Kenny never wavered. He believed that baseball and softball were important conduits for teaching good values. He believed that children learned life lessons from the discipline and competition of sports. He lived those beliefs by spending countless hours developing leagues, soliciting tournaments, settling disputes, and answering unending parent phone calls, all for the benefit of a terrific community program.
The Gosnell Pirates lost a friend too. Passionate about them hardly says it. He would occasionally jokingly ask me if I saw a Gosnell score, then shake his head and say, “Why am I asking you? I know you never keep up with scores!!” Still the big smile, of course. A nicer guy you could not find.
Community volunteers often wax and wane, but not Kenny Burge. He served on our Chamber of Commerce board and I can attest that he was never too busy, never too frustrated, and never too distracted to help. And most amazing? He never wanted credit for any of it. It was not important to Kenny that his name was attached to successful endeavors; although he was at the forefront of moving programs forward, he wanted to be treated as a behind-the-scenes guy, reserving the accolades for others. As I said, a gentle man. Kind and funny, always appreciative of a good joke. And always, always, that big smile.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc and despair. In our small town we have been spared the ravaging effects visible in metropolitan areas, but the effect is here. Jobs are lost. Families are hungry. People are sick. And death has reached its shattering hand into our lives.
Rest in peace, Kenny. Rest in peace with the many others who are the real victims of this pandemic. You will forever remind us that political views on viruses and masks, chatter about unprecedented times, and economic woes have little significance when compared to the magnitude of losing you.