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WWII Vet Was to Lead Parade But Never Knew It

Madison resident Wilfred Burkitt, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, died last week at the age of 95.

There were plans for Wilfred Burkitt to lead the annual Memorial Day Parade in Madison this year, but the World War II veteran never knew it.

Burkitt's oldest daughter, Lynn Welsch, said parade organizers told her they planned to rope him into the role at the last minute because they knew the 95-year-old Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient would have resisted the recognition.

"He would have said, 'No, no, no, no, no,'" Welsch said. "He didn't know that."

Burkitt died Thursday after a short illness, and Mayor Bob Conley held a moment of silence in his honor at the start of Monday's Madison Borough Council meeting. The funeral service was Monday.

Burkitt was "not only a true hero and great representative of Madison, but one of the best neighbors you could ever have," Conley said. "I lived right next to him."

"We were hoping to have him lead our Memorial Day Parade, but we will certainly give him another recognition on Memorial Day," the mayor said.

Burkitt, who served in the Army as a corporal in the 12th Field Artillery Observation Battalion, was proud of his military service, and flew the flag often, Welsch said. A relative recorded an interview with him about his war experiences and a DVD of that interview could be added to Library of Congress, she said.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Olive Burkitt, and their four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was born in Irvington and lived in Madison more than 60 years.

Welsch said Burkitt loved his family, working in his yard and garden, fishing, and playing harmonica, which he did at his 95th birthday. He had a great sense of humor, and loved all his neighbors, she said.

Welsch now lives in New Mexico, but remembers going to Madison's parades as a child and said her father loved them.

"That would have been so cool," she said of Burkitt leading the parade. "It was very nice for them to be working on that."

patricia pignataro February 27, 2013 at 05:29 AM
Bill Burkitt was a gentle and unassuming man who was loved by all his neighbors. He was the "hit" of many neighborhood gatherings when he would take out his harmonica to entertain all of us. He was a valued representative of the "greatest generation" which earned him the respect of the young and old in the Fairwoods section. I will miss him terribly along with many others.
The Good Guy February 27, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Those that serve are the true heros of our society.
Mad man March 01, 2013 at 12:04 PM
btw, it's called a Bronze Star, not a "bronze medal."
Jo March 01, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Our family was fortunate to have Bill as a neightbor for 33 years. So many memories - playing the harmonica at our pig roast parties, gardening, shopping, shoveling snow together and so much much. Thanks for the memories - "my buddy Bill. We will miss you.
Jake Remaly (Editor) March 01, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Thank you

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