Former Jackson resident Al Burger died peacefully in his sleep in Jacksonville, Florida on Dec. 28, 2019. He was 85.
Burger resided in Jackson for 32 years. A devoted family man, community leader and faithful member of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, he is remembered fondly and with deep respect by two generations of Jackson students whom he coached and taught.
The son of German immigrants, Big Al was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio where he was an All City athlete. His pitching arm caught the attention of baseball coaches at the Ohio State University and earned his education on the mound for the Buckeyes. But basketball was his passion and led to his satisfying career coaching the sport at several high schools in Ohio and New Mexico.
Coach Burger arrived to lead the Ironmen in 1971 and continued as head coach until 1980. During those years he established the Summer Basketball League, which brought upcoming players and alumni together for nights of competition. He emphasized the fundamentals of the game while stressing good sportsmanship.
A fall on the ice and the injury’s subsequent persistent pain led him to step away from athletics. He moved from the JHS physical education department to teaching health at Lick Middle School. There he developed a heart and listening ear for students surviving the awkward age, teaching them about their bodies and how to maintain eye contact while delivering a vigorous handshake.
A big man, Mr. Burger was gentle and good-natured; he had a keen ability to spot students who were lost or lonely and sought ways to show them that he saw their unique beauty.
His unmatched talents as an educator brought him to the JHS Hall of Honor, an award that left him both honored and humbled.
Al loved talking sports, munching donuts at the Tender Fluff and driving out to Hammertown to sketch. He was committed to supporting the arts in southeastern Ohio. In retirement he and his wife Jill became active and energetic board members of the Southern Hills Arts Council, and were enthusiastic boosters of the revival of the Markay. Al shared his talents by donating many original water-color paintings for fundraisers.
The Burgers moved to St. Augustine, Florida in 2004, where they enjoyed the beach, playing bridge and their well-earned retirement.
Al is survived by his darling Jill, his wife of 64 years; daughter Kevyn of Minneapolis and daughter Marjorie (Mollie) Irazuzta and son-in-law, Jose Irazuzta of Jacksonville; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
A funeral mass is scheduled in St. Augustine on Jan. 18. A graveside service will be held at a later date in Dayton, Ohio.
In lieu of flowers, the Burger family requests memorial contributions to the Southern Hills Arts Council at P.O. Box 149 Jackson or at 740-286-6355.