John Burgess: Sharp Enough to Cut Through the Glass Facade of Life


John Burgess

John Burgess 1943-2016

On Saturday, John Burgess left the world quickly and peacefully. This left the community in shock…. For such a cantankerous man, we all expected more fuss. But John was like that. He got a kick out of surprising folks. His blue eyes would glitter and he’d grin wickedly when he’d say or do something that shocked someone.


John after winning a trophy at Redwood Acres.

But in spite of his rough side, he was one of the most dependable people we knew. A firefighter for the Salmon Creek volunteers, he never seemed to miss an incident and even as he pushed past 70 years old, he could be counted on to get to the scene ahead of everyone else. He was a fixture at the meetings. In fact, on the day of his death, he attended a training.

Even before he became a firefighter back in the late Seventies, one of his first loves was racing. He won more than one trophy at Redwood Acres. He even built his own racetrack where the neighbors could pit their buggies and bikes against each other.

John Burgess

John, at his daughter’s graduation.

But possibly more than racing, he loved animals. Gruff with people, he would coax deer from the woods and turkeys to his front yard. For them, he was a protector and his land, a refuge. Animals were safe there.

Now there’s a ragged hole in the Salmon Creek community which won’t be easily filled. After he died, Aeric Stark, the son of a neighbor, wrote the following piece to try and explain his loss to the neighborhood:

Sometimes you meet a diamond in the rough, and sometimes they refuse to be polished. You can only see their shine if you look hard enough. Beneath the rough exterior something truly sparkles. You might only see the dirt and grit on the surface, without ever looking beneath to see what’s truly there. Those that truly see lost a brilliant light today. Someone that was hard and precious and refused to be refined, someone who was always there and sharp enough to cut through the glass facade of life and tell things like they saw it. Even diamonds can’t last forever, everything has its time.

So goodbye you rough diamond whose shine not all could see.

While your light might be extinguished, your memory will never be.

John left behind Carol, his partner of 50 years, his daughter, Annie, his son Jake and an empty fire truck that will never again drive quite so fast to an incident.

Good-bye, John.

You’ll be missed.


John at the race track.



  • So sorry to hear this. He was always kind to me, and I will indeed miss those sparkling blue eyes. Thanks, Kym and Aeric

  • A wonderful sense of humor and a great human being. Though we hadn’t seen him in many years, it is still a heartbreak to lose him in our community. Rest in peace, John and our sympathy and love to Carol, Annie, and Jake.

  • So sorry for your loss Carol, Annie & Jake. I remember John on his quad patrolling the hill. He was usually first to alert the community whenever there was a threat. One of the old timers who added flavor to our small community on the hill.

  • So sad.prayers to the dad also was a local racer,I have lots of photos.i some how remember his face.see you at the checkered flag!!!

  • Sorry to hear such sad news. I too remember John at many incidents on the hill. He knew how to get it done the way it made sense not the polished ‘look good way’. I visited with John many times at the Miranda PO and we would laugh and joke about anything we could think of or maybe the last call we share. I loved the rough diamond and the un-polished character he was. I’ll miss him. RIP Jim

  • My heart aches for my husband and his family. John loved his grandkids so much, and the feeling was mutual. He was such a special part of our lives. Such a tremendous loss. You will be forever missed! Love you John!!

  • He was one of the first people I met in
    The Creek. A force to be reckoned with.
    Smooth sailing, John! You will be missed.

  • RIP you are racing the oval in heaven .

  • this is a good article on someone who is missed terribly. I know your racing out there!
    Love to Carol and his family —

  • Teeny & Wayne Emerson

    Our hearts go out to Carol, Jake, and Annie. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Remember the good times. Take care of each other! We love you.

  • Great Man, Great Family! So sorry for your loss.. Roost In Peace JB

  • Jan and Carla Bentley

    In deepest sympathy to his daughter, Annie, and her family..we enjoyed this memory of him as we have always heard how much Annie loves her family.

  • Sad to hear that John has passed. John and Carol were among the first batch of homesteaders that moved onto the newly subdivided ranches.
    I must have met them in the late 60’s or early 70’s when I was a teenager.
    I remember that they would stop by my parents house to ask questions about how to build a house etc.
    While John was far from being politically correct, we always got along. If you wanted to know what John thought about a particular subject, all you had to was ask, he had no filter, which was refreshing.
    The last time I had a long conversation with John was last Summer.
    There was a fire on Grenz Lane and John and I were the only ones to show up for several hours.He remarked that only tow of the oldest, crippled up residents in Salmon Creek had the ambition to show up.
    He stated that he was in his early 70,s and I was shocked for moment. Then I realized that I was 60 and he had to at least 10 years older.
    Even though we haven’t talked much through the years, I will miss him. We disagreed on everything political, but we still got along, which is very rare for me.

  • My very best to Carol and the kids…You are surrounded with love.

  • Sad to get this news while away from the Creek. Thank you for the many smiling photos, though. I can only echo what others have said here; Burgess had a hard edge that was just what was needed in many situations, but was kind when it mattered. A good neighbor who will be missed. Much love to Carol, Jake, Annie and their families.

  • John was a heck of a guy. He had a way of making you feel like he knew you for years even though he just met you. When I first came on as a driver for the Lemons team I was subbing for Richard George, and I was just a little timid to say the least. I didn’t know if I still had what it took, but John just had this way about him that totally put me at ease. Because of that, I was able to rekindle friendships with old race buddies. I love you John and will never forget you.

  • Very nice article Kym, thank you. Also, thanks to everyone for all of the kind and insightful comments, they mean a lot.

  • Sounds like a great guy. We need more like him. R.I.P.

  • My old friend. We go back a long way, John and Carol and me. All the way to Florida and then to the Bay Area and finally to Salmon Creek. John may have been sometimes gruff on the surface, but he had a heart of gold. I remember when I had a personal loss, John, unbidden, made me a little wooden cross that I took to a special place on the land we shared back then and grieved. I remember standing over the grave of a dog and sharing the pain of our mutual loss. I will always remember the twinkle in those eyes, that wry smile. Carol, Jake, Annie, I love you. I always have, I always will. And I am here for you if you need me. My heart aches now. I, too, will miss John. But I will always remember.

  • Charles Harshbarger

    Very sad news to hear.
    My very best to you Carol.
    Without knowing it, John taught me a great deal about driving. All those years ago in Lake Worth, and in Boca, I paid attention as we zoomed around in that 2+2!
    I recall a wild ride from Sausalito to San Francisco with John driving my Mazda R-100!
    It was his first time driving a rotary.
    Quite the ride across the Golden Gate!, and into North Beach! WOW!

    I’m still breathless when I think of it.

    My best to you all..

  • SC since early 70's

    Goodbye John. I can think of many ways to describe you, good and bad. You helped many people and hurt some (esp SCCS).
    Yet John was always authentic. Love the characterization of his ‘twinkling eyes’. With him, though often a mischievous twinkle, that is a very accurate description.
    Will never forget when he accompanied me to the races, where I was to have my one time experience (did very well, partly due to his support). We had a lot of laughs and camaraderie that day. Later he betrayed me, yet not out of keeping with who he was. John was reliable, in all ways.
    Condolences to Carol, Jake and Annie.
    How did he die? He seemed too young and vibrant.

    • SC in early 70’s needs to keep any negative comments to his or herself. This is a devastating time for our family, and it is beyond inappropriate and disrespectful to post those kinds of things. You are just making yourself look like a complete a@#hole! There are two sides to every story. Get off of your high horse and show some respect.

  • An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a friend
    who was conducting a little research on this. And he in fact ordered me lunch due to the fact that I
    discovered it for him… lol. So let me reword this….

    Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time
    to talk about this subject here on your site.

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