Family Matters

The Wild Blue Yonder
(The Story of Another Burgin Pioneer)

Walter Eugene Burgin, one of four boys born to John Harvey and Blanche (Snyder) Burgin, was born May 4, 1933. He was only nine months old when his father died February 12, 1934 at age 37.
Walter Burgin lived to fulfill his boyhood dreams.

Blanche was unable to cope with the loss of her husband and the responsibility of taking care of four boys by herself on the farm. As a result, the two older boys (Wayne and Richard) were helped by friends and ended up in California. Forrest, the youngest, was raised by his mom’s sister in Iowa Falls. And Walter was raised by his dad's brother, Edward Burgin and his wife Guendola and their six kids on their farm in Webster City, Iowa.

Ed's farm was your typical, hard-working Iowa farm and while growing up, Walter was asked to do most of the things that farm children are asked to help with. Yet, the difference was that this farm was just a couple of miles from the airport. At every opportunity, Walter would ride his bike to the airport and help the pilots and airport crew with small jobs around the airport. He was able to “earn” free flying lessons by doing this. During this time as a young teen, he also entered a model airplane contest in Webster City and won. The prize was flying lessons. He had his pilots license at age 16 (long before he had a drivers license). The rest of his life was centered around airplanes.

Walter served in the army during the Korean War. from 1952-54 and while in the service, he continued to pursue aeronautics as a hobby. After his discharge he went on to win several National Model Airplane competitions in the 1960’s. During this period he appeared on the cover of several national magazines.

Walt Appeared on The Cover of Several National Publications

He had a career with the FAA and worked in airports in the flight service station where he helped pilots file their flight plans. As a young man growing up in Ottumwa, Iowa, Walter had his own CESSNA 172 airplane in which he gave private pilot lessons in addition to his job with the FAA. Most of his career was at the Ottumwa and Des Moines Airport .The last couple of years in his career were spent at the Fort Dodge, Iowa airport.

He was a member of the first Hot Air Balloon Club in the State of Iowa. In the early to mid-70's, he was one of the first few people in Iowa to own and fly hot air balloons. He had his balloon at the Iowa State Fair one summer. His children still have fond memories of chasing dad’s balloon around the Iowa country side...the rides were fun, too!

Walt Burgin in his hot air balloon.

Walt married Martha Kay Schweppe, daughter of Ann and Kenneth Schweppe, from Webster City, Iowa. He courted Martha by dating her in his own airplane (Cub - with leopard skin interior) by buzzing her farm house – then landing in the hay field ---- then taking her for a spin in his airplane. They were married in 1956 on July 13, and four children were born to this couple.

He and Martha would pack all four children into the back of the CESSNA (along with Pets), and fly up to Grandma’s house in Webster City. Some times they would land in Granddad’s hay field and some times they would fly into the Webster City airport . . . Good memories!

Walter Eugene Burgin died March 20th, 1997 at age 63. His death was attributed to complications from pneumonia. Walt is buried in the northwest part of Graceland Cemetery in Webster City, Iowa.

(A Special thanks to Walt's daughter, Joni Burgin-Hartshorn, for sharing this story with us)