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Retirement Notes to Al Burch

What follows is a collection of unsolicited notes to Al Burch on the occasion of his retirement as principal of Bishop O'Connell High School in 2005.


It's amazing how well I can remember things from my years at O'Connell but sometimes can't remember what I went to the store to get for dinner... My recollections of Al Burch from freshman and J.V. football and health/phys ed seem like just yesterday, weren't they? Little did we know that the Class of '65 began its existence the first days of the Burch regime --some 43 years. What a run! Maybe we should have had more presence of mind to know that we were sharing a moment in history ... At any rate, it was an exciting time and we had the best of teaching and coaching and personal example but may have been too distracted at times to fully appreciate it. Guess that proves the old saying that "Youth is wasted on the young."

John Totten, Class of 1965


Words cannot express what a great man Mr. Burch is. What really stuck me most about Mr. Burch (from the first time I heard him speak) was his devotion to the Holy Eucharist. It was Mr. Burch who helped form the O'Connell family with the right spiritual focus. I think his dedication and devotion to the faith has really been a big blessing on the whole O'Connell school, because you can just feel the Holy Spirit when you walk into that school. Mr. Burch has always upheld the pride of O'Connell by being a spirit filled man and he made a very hard job look easy! As a widow with two sons who both graduated from O'Connell, I'm so grateful for the support of Mr. Burch and all the teachers at the school. I know my sons will appreciate their Catholic education there more and more as time goes by.

God bless you Mr. Burch and thank you for being such a wonderful role model to all the students, including my sons, John & Mark Maskeny, and for all those years you dedicated to O'Connell. I know the whole school will miss your smiling face.

Please know you will always be in our hearts and prayers in the days to come and we are very thankful to have shared great memories of Bishop O'Connell and you as the Principal.

Luellen Maskeny, parent Class of 2002 and 2003


It's tough to imagine O'Connell High School without you. You have been one its main pillars for so many years. O'Connell won't ever be quite the same with you gone. Gone, but certainly never forgotten.

It's also tough to imagine what my life in sports would have been without you as my high school coach; not only playing sports at O'Connell but also having had the opportunity to play baseball professionally. I couldn't have done it without you AI. If you didn't know that before I hope you know it now. You were not only a coach to me but also a mentor in my life. I worked harder to succeed because of you. I don't think anyone can give higher praise to another person. If they could I would certainly speak those same words in your honor.

Best of luck to you in your future. It was Tug McGraw who once said, "Luck comes to those who are prepared for the opportunity." I don't think I know of another person who was ever better prepared for the opportunities and challenges of succeeding in life than you.

John Brown, Class of 1969


What I want to comment on is a more recent experience I had concerning AI. Last year I attended the Athletic Hall of Fame awards ceremony that was honoring an old friend and classmate. As each inductee gave their acceptance speech, each one of them mentioned, without fail, the tremendous impact that O'Connell and Al had on their life. At the end of the ceremony I had a very powerful sense of how important Al had been in shaping some aspect of each of the new inductees' life. This was so impactful that the following week I called Dennis Dwyer and mentioned this to him and asked if this was unusual. Dennis told me that this was a very typical theme that could be heard from all the inductees over all the years that Al has been at 0' Connell.

There is nothing I could say that would come close to how honoring this is for AI. To know that he has had such a meaningful impact on so many must truly bring deep personal joy.

I just want to say thanks for being such a contributor and wish you continued success and peace with your next endeavors.

Mike McClellan, Class of 1963


 My name is Tina (Santoro) Ward and I am a member of the Class of 1987. Although I am sure you do not remember me, as many students have walked your halls over the last 42 years, I wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for all you have done for the students, teachers and alumni of Bishop Denis 1. O'Connell High School.

Under your direction, O'Connell has been recognized for its high educational standards as well as achievements in sports and other extra-curricular activities. O'Connell students graduate as well-rounded individuals prepared to enter the world. This is in large part due to your steadfast leadership.

Your quiet dedication deserves recognition. Your fine example as a dedicated educator and a man of Faith has not gone unnoticed. In some way, you have touched every student that has walked your halls. We shall all be eternally grateful to you for all of your hard work and the many, many achievements that you have worked so hard to attain for the O'Connell family.

While I am saddened to see the "AI Burch Era" end, I am thrilled for you and the opportunities that await you as you enter this next phase of your life. O'Connell will not be the same without you, but the mark you have left will be everlasting

I am sorry that I am unable to attend your party on Saturday, but you will be in my thoughts and prayers. May God continue to bless you and your family.

Tina (Santoro) Ward, Class of 1987


 How can your years of service, incalculable contributions and the countless lives you have touched be adequately summed up is a word, note, verse, chapter or volume? Beyond the education, the relationships which I have established, and the values that I gained while I attended O'Connell will be forever with me.

Thank you!

Mike Bowers, Class of 1982


 You were so caring and always made sure that each student felt special. I will never forget the time when I played softball for your daughter and accidentally hit her in the mouth with the softball. I was so upset, but you went out of your way to insure me everything was going to be alright. Thank you so much for providing such a wonderful Christian setting for us all. I am so proud to say I am a graduate of O'Connell. I know that my husband is too. He is now a proud Lt. in the United States Marine Corps serving in Afghanistan.

We often talk about our memories at O'Connell, and hope that one day our daughter will enjoy it as much as we did.

Thank you for your generosity. Know that you have touched the lives of so many and that we are thankful for all you have done. Good luck in all that you do. You will be truly missed.

Robin Alexander Gazes, Class of  1995
L. William Gazes, Class of 1995


 When I was a student at O'Connell, you were vice-principal (Class of 1976). You have touched so many lives in the years you have served. As I remember, you were always fair and had a great sense of humor (and yet, somehow, retained the ability to inspire sensibility and restraint from our volatile teenage population!) Thank you for being part of the most formative years in my life.

Susan Szabo (Coleman), Class of 1976


 As one of the very fortunate players who played for "The Team" which was inducted into Cooperstown, I can safely say that the 42 consecutive wins would not have been accomplished had it not been for the excellent coach of that team---namely, Mr. Al Burch. He was the real leader of that team and the key reason that the 42 wins in a row actually happened.

I am now 57 years old and I still consider playing for that team and for Mr. Burch one of the real highlights of my life.

Al, thank you very much for all you did for me while I was at O'Connell, and for all that you have done for so very many people through all your years of service to O'Connell. I hope you have many, many years of healthy, happy retirement. You have earned it!

Tom Carroll, Class of 1964 -  Shortstop/2nd Base


 Al Burch was one of the scariest people I knew when I was a freshman. He was one guy that you didn't want to mess with. As I developed into an upperclassman, Mr. Burch became more of a friend, someone you could relate to and admire.

I am so happy that DJO had such a man on its campus and guiding its students and staff for so long. Best wishes in retirement, AI. You will be missed more than you know.

Russ Neal, Class of 1964


After graduation in '65 I worked one summer on the construction of the 'new' auditorium being built off the gym. Years later, I was taking a friend on a tour of the campus, with particular attention being given to 'my' auditorium, when who should come strolling down the corridor, but Coach Al Burch. After introducing him to my friend as Coach Burch, and being unaware of his new position, I asked him, "How's the baseball team doing?"

He said he no longer was the baseball coach. A pause ensued, then he said, "But I am the principal!"

Tom Kelly, Class of 1965


It is difficult for me to formulate a thanks that is unique from the rest. 15,000 is a large legacy. You and Msgr. touched Maria's and my lives at a very critical point in our formation. As an educator, you have known that. It is not until we have teenagers of our own that we, who are not educators, truly observe what it is that goes on in the adolescent person that is so fragile at the beginning of the process, yet strong at the end. This formation period is so critical, and yet you have guided the faculty to deal with it in such an superlative way. You didn't start out with that in mind, but God gave you Wisdom, and you have used it well. I am thrilled that you have been able to serve so long and so well at His service, and ours. I am also gratified that you are stepping down to rest (somewhat) while you still have your health the better to enjoy the time with your family and friends.

I have to trust that as one generation retires, the Lord will provide a steady set of hands to uphold the same principles with different principals! He did so for us, he will for our children's children ...

God BLESS You Abundantly in the Future, as He has in the Past! My wife and I stand in honor of you.

John P. Elliott, Class of 1978


 I just wanted to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your retirement from 42 great years of service to the O'Connell family. During your tenure there has been significant growth and maturity well beyond what you and I may have expected back when you first arrived at the school as a coach.

I am sorry I cannot make the festivities on Saturday but have unavoidable commitments to a wedding that day. I know that you will enjoy the day but also have strong feelings about the transition at this time. That is evidence of how much you gave to the school and how much you also are appreciated by all.

In addition, I note my indirect personal contribution to much of what I read in some of your recent accolades. That is that 42 seems to be a special number for you in that it represents the number of years of service but also the" streak" in your coaching career which if it were not for me (and perhaps a few other special circumstances) that number may not have been 42, and I do not necessarily mean it would have been less, but rather more!  We will forever be joined.

Again congratulations and I hope to see you soon.

Mike Lubeley, Class of  1965


I remember Al Burch as a gentle, funny and just all around great guy. He would stand in the hallway during classes and chat with the students. He was a wonderful asset to the school and that O'Connell continues to be the great school is due to all his contributions.

God Bless him.

Maria Juanpere, Class of 1977


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