By Tim Leeds/Daily Newsemail@example.com
It was a long, winding road that led Cal Burr, 78, from Tacoma, Wash., to Havre -through the Pacific Theater of World War II, the mines at Butte, and a stint with the railroad at Glasgow.
That road has given him many friends, a family, a home he built himself in Havre, and a lot to do during his retirement. He volunteers as a shooting instructor with the VFW Bear Paw Junior Rifle Club, volunteers at the Vets Club and coordinates the VFW honor guard and cares for its equipment.
Burr said he likes helping out.
"It's rewarding when people appreciate what you do," he said.
Along with the volunteer work Burr does, he spends time with his family: his wife, Charlotte, daughters Karen Murri of Havre and Barbara Badgefield of Whitefish, son Paul Burr of Havre, and his five grandchildren. His mother, Jennie Stone, moved to Havre in 1999.
Burr said he picks his mother up from the Eagles Manor every Sunday for a family brunch, and again on Wednesdays when they go to the Vets Club for supper.
Burr said he spends a lot of very rewarding time with his grandchildren, including teaching his grandsons to hunt and fish.
The journey to Havre started when Burr enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1943. He was stationed at the Marine Corps air station in Miramar, Calif., and 30 days of mess duty as one of the youngest members of the squadron.
"And I hated that," Burr said.
He was soon sent to the Marine fighter base near Goleta, Calif., about 9 miles from Santa Barbara, and had 30 more days of mess duty as one of the youngest on the squadron. But the forces were being mobilized quickly, Burr said.
He traveled to Majuro in the Marshall Islands, then Guam. He said he was in the Caroline Islands when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in August 1945.
Burr said he didn't see a lot of combat, other than bombing runs when reconnaissance flights discovered activity on islands that had been bypassed in the U.S. drive to Japan.
He participated in disarming Japanese soldiers on an isolated island. The Japanese were cooperative, Burr added.
"They were willing. They wanted to get home too," he said.
In 1946, Burr and his buddy John Hicks, a Butte native, were discharged from the Marines at the same time. They decided to go to Butte together, and spent a year working in the mines, Burr said. After a year, they decided to look for something else.
"We both thought it would be detrimental to our health to make a career in hard-rock mining," Burr said.
They saw an advertisement that the Great Northern Railway was hiring firemen trainees in Great Falls and Havre, and moved to Havre and a new job, Burr said.
But the work in Havre didn't last, and Hicks and Burr traveled in 1947 to Glasgow to work for the railroad. That is where Burr met his future wife, and they were married a year later. They celebrated their 55th anniversary this year.
Burr was promoted to engineer in 1953, but had to wait for an opening in the pool of engineers. When the opportunity came, he and Charlotte sold their home in Glasgow and moved to Havre.
"Since 1958, I spent the rest of my career in Havre," Burr said.
He worked as an engineer for the Great Northern Railway, the Burlington Northern Railway and Amtrak until he retired in 1989.
Burr didn't slow down with retirement. He has continued as a shooting instructor for the VFW Bear Paw Junior Rifle Club, which he has done since 1964. He hunts and fishes, and goes to the Vets Club every Thursday.
That involves carpentry, repair work, "whatever is required," Burr said.
It started with 33 veterans going down for coffee - and doing work at the club - every Thursday, Burr said.
Of the original 33, only he and Faye McDonald still go on Thursdays.
"He's our boss," Burr said of McDonald, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
The crew gets to buy equipment and supplies by recycling aluminum, receiving the money after 1,000 pounds is recycled. Burr said they have a shop set up downstairs, with equipment like drill presses, table saws and air compressors.
The VFW also purchased three new rifles for the rifle club with recycling money, he added.
He also works with the VFW honor guard, keeping its firearms in shape and coordinating service at funerals and other activities.
He helps out in other areas, like working with the 4-H airgun shooters and talking to youth groups about proper handling of the U.S. flag.
Burr does a lot of handyman work for people, including plumbing. Toward the end of World War II, he entered school to study plumbing to avoid going back to mess duty. He put the plumbing to use toward the end of his tour
"We were making drinking water out of seawater," he said.
He built his own house, starting in 1962 and finishing two years later. Burr installed the plumbing and electrical systems, and built his own cabinets.
He enjoys watching sports, especially track, and likes to go hunting and fishing. He has been making his own fishing rods, especially fly rods, for 25 or 30 years.
Burr said he likes watching professional sports, but loves local sports too.
"I go to the high school games," he said.
Burr said he has done a lot with his friends over the years, including members of his Marine Corps squadron. He was in touch off and on with members of the squadron from around the country for many years.
He still goes hunting and fishing with his friends and family on a regular basis.
He spent a lot of time with John Hicks, his friend from Butte, until Hicks died in Arizona about five years ago.
"We were as close as brothers," he said.