Stories about my family

Category: COMPASSION (Page 1 of 3)

The man with a hard heart

Phyllis and I decided in the the early 80’s that we would retire from the Army. Phyllis had been talking for some time that we needed to “get in Church”. Looking back, we can see God’s hand at that pivotal point in our life. He created circumstances that made the decision the only practical one. We moved to West Tulsa in 1981 and joined Bethel Baptist Church.

Everyone in the Burr family was involved in church activities, from teaching, to yard work, to kitchen help. God was doing a mighty work in our lives, blessing each of us.

As was our custom on Wednesday evening, Phyllis’s father and I went of visitation. On this particular visit, Bill choose to take the lead and started the conversation with the older gentleman, who was lying in bed, obviously very ill. He told Bill, the doctor said he didn’t have much longer to live.

When asked where he expected to spend eternity. The man replied, “I’ll be in Hell with all my buddies”. You don’t have to go there, Bill said and started telling the man about Jesus. The man stopped him and said he didn’t want to hear that stuff.

We concluded our visit and started for the door, when Bill turned and started to say something. He changed his mind and we left. It was obvious the man had hardened his heart toward God and sealed his own fate. The bible says “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment”.

A sad story but repeated too often. God’s Grace is available to all, but is effectual only for those who believe.


My mother was more introverted and perhaps more intelligent than any of us. She had a mind that recalled events and transactions from the past with accuracy. Addie Burr was also an artist. 

Her artful use of the English language was evidenced by the poems she left behind. This poem was written while traveling from Warner, Oklahoma along route 66 on our way to Stratford, California. This story happened in the early 1950’s. Her writings emphasize her love of God and country. 

While traveling one day down life’s busy avenue
with no thought of destination,
where I was headed to.
I caught the glimpse of a billboard that stood beside the road the boards were weather worn,
the paint was faded and old.
Some of the words were missing from the sign
but the two words I did read.
keep going through my mind.
Find happiness it read,
I kept driving, and thinking, what is happiness?
where is happiness? does happiness really exist?
Is it on the other side of the world in some foreign land?
Or right here in America,
In the heart of every man who sincerely desires to find it?
I traveled on farther thinking and looking at the barren so then another billboard (prepare) I didn’t quite comprehend, so then I read on, (to meet thy God).
Then another billboard just up the road
(God’s Prayer Station)
the doors are never closed.
True it was no big cathedral with stained glass windows
and not an inch of carpet was laid
but just a simple little place
where another traveler prayed. 

Written by Addie Burr 

For mom. it was the notion that America is a place where there is freedom to worship God, which is the path to true happiness. What better way to express ones’ patriotism than to demonstrate a love of God and country. 



The religious stories received several comments from loyal readers.. Here are a few.

Don Qualls left this comment after reading the story about Alfred and Addie Burr leading the community in building a Church in Warner, OK in 1954.

It must be in the Burr blood, my mother, Juaneva (Pip) Burr Qualls was the main force in starting a Southern Baptist Church in Stratford CA. around 1962*63-ish. My brother Jerry Qualls could probably give the exact date, he attended the church until he moved to Webber around 1974. I remember spending many days getting the storefront ready, cutting weeds in the back, going to Sunday School. After my mothers death in 1965 we began to attend the Pentecostal church of God that Janis mentioned earlier

Uncle Tom Burr left this comment. What a GREAT story. I am glad and honored to call Alfred Burr my earthly and Heavenly brother.

Janis Burr Minter left this comment after reading the same story. Very interesting. I didn’t know about the building of the church. My dad helped build the Pentecostal church in Stratford. But he didn’t attend until much later in his life.

Judy Anderson. For your memory bank of Bro & Sister Burr, (Alfred Burr’s parents). When my brother-in-law, Burl Page pastored the little brown church on the corner behind the cotton gin, (In the town of Webbers Falls, OK), Bro Burr was the assistant pastor and when Burl had to work, he preached. He was the first person I ever heard speak in tongues! I wanted to do that, didn’t understand it, but wanted it. I loved to hear both of them testify. Sister Burr always sat on the front bench of the left side of the church. I still remember the long dark colored coat with a pretty pin on the lapel that she wore. And she always prayed during the service. She like the song “I shall not be moved”. We had a wood stove in the middle of the isle in center of the church and Bro Burr would carry the wood in by arm loads and many times came early to build the fire so church would be warm. Hope this gives you a short memory to reflect on two favorite people of my childhood.

Note: Brother and Sister Burr referred to by Judy are my grandparents. Thank you Judy, I did not know. Jack

Tim Denning left this comment after reading the story “The Day I was Saved.” Thank you for sharing – I always love to hear how someone came to know our Lord.
I came to Christ the Summer of 1974 at a meeting downtown in Wichita. I too felt that God through the preacher was speaking directly to me that night. It was hard to go forward in that big crowd but I knew that is what I had to do. I’ve never been the same since and would not trade his loving care for anything. Yes, I too have not walked as I should at times but he is always ready to draw me close.

Comment left by my sister Brenda. testimony from the heart… love all bc

Comment by Dennis Burr. Fantastic testimony. (Dennis is a man who loves family traditions as much as I do, Jack).

Comment by my daughter-in-law, Donna. Amen Amen Dad!!

Thanks for the feedback. Jack



My purpose here is to encourage veterans who, like me, to use VA Medical service and to be vocal about the caliber of service you receive.  The opinions expressed in this post are based on services provided by Muskogee Veterans Hospital and most recently the Tulsa Clinic on 41st Street.

The Veterans Administration has suffered from bad leadership and poor administrative policies over the past several years.  Certain VA hospitals and clinics have been deservedly criticized for not properly serving the needs of veterans.

A few days ago I visited the Tulsa VA clinic to establish a personal medical record in the event I needed VA Services in the future. I had not been in a VA medical facility since the scandal of poor treatment of veterans which was prevalent during the last presidential administration and is still unresolved in many instances.  Accordingly I was skeptical as I approached the clinic.

First, I must say, I was filled with admiration and a sense of patriotism as I saw several veterans of the Vietnam era  with visible disabilities.  A few younger veterans were also in the waiting area.

I spoke to each one I met as I made my way to the information desk, they looked me in the eye and said they were fine.  Anyone could see that they were not fine in the physical sense, but it was also obvious they were talking about their mental and emotional state of being and that they were proud to have served their country.

Clinic named for LTC Ernest Childers

As I sat in the waiting room awaiting my turn, I noticed three vets who appeared to be indigent with emotional issues probably caused by PTSD or illegal drugs or maybe both. The nursing and administrative staff appeared caring and professional as they attempted to understand and care for the needs of each.  None-the-less, my heart went out to these men who needed more than medical assistance.  Another example that the cost of war cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Promptly at the scheduled time my name was called to see the doctor.  She was attentive as I described the purpose of my visit.  She was friendly and easy to understand as she used non technical terms to ask the kinds of questions doctors ask patients. She gave me advice and information about my health that was more informative and helpful than the civilian doctor I have been seeing for the past several years.  I was impressed.

Post visit care was also impressive.  I was contacted by the Physician to check on me and a day or so later  a nurse called and gave me useful information on test results.  She also made an appointment for a follow-up visit.  The service provided was superior to the civilian facilities I have been using for the past several years.

Information I’ve provided here is one person’s opinion about a particular VA Clinic.  If your experience has been different, I encourage to speak to people who can do something about the issue concerning you.  Be persistent.

As a veteran you deserve respectful and timely treatment from people working  in institutions specifically designed for and whose sole purpose is to serve you.  Most do, but If you do not receive proper treatment, then do something about it.

In every governmental entity there are written policies on steps a veteran may take  to have the issue(s) resolved.  Ask the person who is not responding to your requests, to talk to his (her) boss.  If he (she) is not available, make an appointment or ask to see a higher level supervisor.  Persistency may be the only way to get answers.   Many times, change only occurs when someone is made uncomfortable.

If, on the other hand, you receive good service, be kind, and thank the person who served you.

There is a saying– that Kindness makes you feel good whether you are  giving it or receiving it.



Phyllis talks about her Grandma

My name is Phyllis Burr.

I am going to tell a story about my Grandma, Rachael Ninetta Prater.  I remember the time when grandma was working on a

My grandma. Nina Praterquilt with other women from her church.  I sat under the the quilt which was stretch out on the quilting frame permitting several quilters to work at the same time.  I recall watching the needles going up and down.

I’m sure these early experiences explains my interest in sewing.  In particular, my interest in making quilts.

another pieced and hand appliquéd quilt by Phyllis

Grandma was a believer in prayer.  Whenever I was visiting and told her I was sick, or sometimes she just intuitively knew something was wrong and she would kneel and start praying.  When she did so I knew she loved me.

One time we played church.  Ronnie liked to preach but, he was too small to see over the pulpit in the living room; therefore,  he stood on a kitchen chair and preached away.   During the exhortation, he paused and asked me to get him a glass of water.  He took a gulp and suddenly sprayed Billy and I.

Hand Pieced and Hand Applique stitched by Phylis

At the same time, grandma walked into the room.  She was not pleased with our behavior, disrespecting God’s Church as we did.  She gave us a light spat on the rump and banned us from the living room except when it was used for real church.

I was a quiet child and I had been told  I was an emotional child.  I suppose I was, which explains why I have fond memories of my grandma.  She was my best friend.  Especially, when someone said things to me that hurt my feelings and I would cry.  Grandma understood and and gave me sweet hugs.

It was a sad day when she passed away in 1989.   She was 89 years old.  I know I will see her again because she led me to my

A beautiful little girl named Phyllis

Lord and Savior,  when I was 12 years old, and taught me that when I trusted Jesus as my Savior that I was saved and would go to heaven because Jesus loves me . JESUS loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.                                                Yes, Jesus loves me!

I know that Jesus Loves me and  she taught this song so that I would never  forget “Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells me so”.  This song and the knowledge of God’s Grace is a great comfort to me now that I am 76 years old.  I owe much to my Grandma.



In 1989 Phyllis and I learned of the acute need for foster parents in our community.  Such a shame that so many innocent children are in need of parental love and supervision.  Because of Phyllis’ deep and abiding love for children, we decided to become foster parents.

Before we could become foster parents, Phyllis and I had to attend training sessions.  Because our foster child had sleep apnea and required a night time monitor, we were required to learn how to use the monitor to detect chest movement and heart rate.  Our daughter was living at home while attending Baptist Bible College also attended the sessions.

Christa came to us from dysfunctional family.  Her biological father was involved with drugs and was not around.  The mother, Mary, was having difficulty coping with all the responsibilities of parenthood.  As a result, Christa was removed from the home.


The first night we had Christa, we nervously hooked up the leads on her little body, fussed over her a bit and set the machine to alarm if something went wrong.  After everyone was asleep a loud  alarm caused the three of us to rush to Christa’s bedroom.

When the light was switched on, we saw Christa sitting up in her crib with a monitor clip in her hand and a grin on her face.  Perhaps it was a triumphant smile.

After we determined that everything was OK, we laughed with her.  Christa had a  wonderful personality.

Always smiling and eager to please others.

Ultimately, all of us wanted Christa to return to her biological mother.  But first the home environment needed to improve.

The social worker admired Phyllis’s work as a foster mother and asked her if she would help Mary.  Of course, Phyllis agreed.

Mary loved Christa and wanted her back.  However, she saw the need for placing her child in a foster home in the first place.   In fact, she taught Christa to call us “Mama Phyllis and Daddy Jack” and was willing to share her daughter.

Mary was a willing learner.  She learned home making and child rearing skills over the next several weeks.  She attended Church and gave evidence of her faith in ways that changed her life. During the process, Mary became a good friend and a better parent.

When it was time, the social worker told us that Christa should be returned to Mary.  Mary invited us to visit Christa whenever we wished.

Mary was gracious with her daughter.  She let Christa stay with us on weekends and once we took her on vacation to Colorado.  Another time she visited us when we lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma several years later.

Still as a teenager, Christa continued to call us “Momma Phyllis and Daddy Jack”.   She grew up to be a responsible adult.  Christa is a wonderful person and loving parent.  God works in wonderful ways.

A second foster child is another story.

DERELICTION OF DUTY: Willfully refusing a lawful order

It was the fall of 1968 and I had been a Basic Training Company Commander at Fort Bliss, TX for about nine months when the Brigade Commander asked me to take a problem Lieutenant from another company and try to turn him around.  I was confident I could rehabilitate the wayward officer.

When Lt Billings (not his real name) reported for duty I noticed his uniform was not pressed  and  his military bearing was poor.  It was obvious he had a bad attitude.  I discussed the matter with him and asked if he know why he had been assigned to my company.  He said yes and added he didn’t like the Army.

I responded that he didn’t have to like the Army but he did have to obey orders.  Additionally, I told him I expected his attitude to change.  I informed him that he was getting a second chance to do what was right.

I gave him a pep talk and told him he was capable of becoming a successful commissioned officer and my job was to help him do so.  I gave him the rest of the day to get a hair cut and get his uniform cleaned and pressed and, to report for duty the next day at 5 AM.

For the next 3 or 4 days the LT Billings followed my directions as I detailed each morning.  Seeing progress, I began to think he might turn around and I told him so.  But I was soon disappointed.

He lived off post but was not married and on the 5th day he was an hour late.  He said he had a flat tire.  He knew that he should have called me before 5 AM and reported his situation but he did not.  This was his first and last warning.  Any further infraction would result in revoking his off-post privilege.

A week later I restricted him to the barracks because he did not follow orders.  His attitude and manner of performance had worsened.  I documented the Lieutenant’s attitude and behavior with details of each infraction.  Of course, I kept the Brigade Commander informed.

It was my experience that in far too many instances “problem” soldiers were simply assigned to the next unit.  Passing the problem soldiers on and on until something bad happened.  I was determined to not let that happen.

After another week of such behavior, I decided to recommend that Lt Billings be discharged for dereliction of duty and failure to obey lawful orders. To do less would be a disservice to the  other officers and enlisted men in my unit who performed their assigned duties everyday.

When I informed LT Billings, he did not act surprised and did not object even when I told him that he would not receive an Honorable Discharge.  I told the Lieutenant I was sad that he had not taken advantage of the chance I had given him to do the right thing.

The Brigade Commander approved my recommendation and the Lieutenant was given a Less Than Honorably Discharge.  I was sad but I had 140 good men that needed my attention.








I recently published a story about several outstanding NCO’s that I inherited when I took over a Basic Training Company, Ft Bliss TX.  However; sometimes good and otherwise competent leaders make mistakes and must be held accountable.  Such was the case with SGT Ridgeway, a junior Drill Sergeant.

It was a hot Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1968 when I got a call from the Company Orderly.  He reported several trainees had complained of blisters in the palm of their hands and a few of them had called their parents about the matter.  I put on my uniform and went to Company Headquarters to find out what was going on.

Sergeant Ridgeway was in the orderly room and asked to see me to explain what happened. We went into my office. He reported that the platoon had failed an inspection and he gave them additional physical training as punishment. He placed the entire platoon in the front leaning rest position and required them to remain in that position on the hot pavement for about 20 minutes.

As a result 8 trainees developed blisters on their palms. I asked him if that was poor judgement on his part. He answered yes. I brought the sergeant to the position of attention and administred an article 15.  Of, course SGT Ridgeway could have refused the punishment but he did not. For good reason, he was guilty of poor judgement which resulted in harm to soldiders under his command.

Because I was the Commander, I had the authority under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to give an Article 15 to any soldier in my command if I deemed the infraction required such action.  Article 15 is a non-judicial punishment for minor infractions and do not become a permanent part of the soldiers record.

SGT Ridgeway was a competent NCO with good reports, I gave him the the least punitive level of punishment under Article 5, an oral reprimand.  I informed him that my written record of this punishment would be destroyed at end of this Training Cycle (approximately 5 weeks) conditional on his conduct for that time period.

I didn’t tell Sgt Ridgeway, but I had another reason for giving him the minimum level of punishment  soon after the infraction.  Before I spoke to Ridgeway the orderly had every injured trainee checked at the infirmary and determined the injuries were supeficial and would have no lasting effect with proper medication and care.

Most importantly, SGT Ridgeway was the caliber of NCO I needed and the Army needed.  I didn’t want commanders up the chain to usurp my prerogative and give a harsher punishment.  Now they couldn’t because that would be double jeopardy.

My predection was correct. The Brigade Commander wanted to take action himself.  I stood my ground because I knew I was right. I explained that Sgt Ridgeway was an outstanding NCO but had made a bad choice and that I would take Sgt Ridgeway before I would take any two NCO’s in the Brigade.

I showed the Colonel that statistically Ridgeway’s platoon outperformed 3 of the 4 platoons in my company and the Brigade Commander knew that my company outperformed the other 3 companies in the Brigade every cycle. He was convinced.

After returning to the company area, I gave SGT Ridgeway a pep talk and encouraged him not to let this incident effect his attitude and to use this as a learning experience.  As I observed him interacting with his men in the following days, I knew he was going to be an outstanding leader.

Two days later the Colonel called me and said he had a problem lieutenant in another company and asked if I would I be willing to take him and try to shape him up.

I said I’d be happy to try.

That will be another story.

NOTE;  SGT Ridgeway was the grandson of General Matthew Ridgeway,  WW II hero and Commander of the famed 82nd Airborne Division who became Army Chief of Staff for President Eisenhower.  I didn’t know that at time of the above incident.

When is a 5 cents the same as $10.

                                               When is 5 cents the same as $10.

Some readers have expressed a desire to write stories about their families.  They usually ask how to get started and talk to  family members about things they remember.  Spend time thinking about good memories.

My advice is this:  Write about events and places about which you have fond memories. If you have trouble getting started or have trouble getting the creative juices flowing, open up an old album and start reminiscing.  Your spouse or a long time friend can help with details you may not remember.

Another thing you should do  is get into the habit of taking notes on your iPhone, ipad, or with a pencil so that you can  record a passing thought that triggers your memory about a particular event .  I’ve found that if I don’t make a note I have trouble remembering later.

When you start writing, pay no attention to punctuation or spelling.  You can clean it up later.  Write while the thought is fresh and the words will flow.  After you have written a few paragraphs, put the story down and come back a day or so later and add or subtract as you see fit.  I usually do this at least a half dozen times until I get the story I want to tell.


I started by writing about my father and my own childhood experiences living on a farm south of Muskogee (aside from a few stories about Vietnam).   I started there because my long term memory seems to be better than the shorter one.

I also try to include a principle or moral lesson as a central part of  the story.  One which can be remembered and passed on the next generation.

An example comes to mind.  During our Christmas reunion last week, our daughter, Cynthia told about going to the store recently to buy a few items, which included two bags of ice.  Later that day she realized that she had paid for only one bag. She immediately returned to the store and paid for the  extra bag office.

Cynthia reminded us of the story which had provided her a guide in such matters.

Dad is working on a transmission. He charged $35. for the part,

“In the 1960’s, her grandfather Burr had traveled to Muskogee to borrow money from a bank because he was struggling to make ends meet.  When he returned to Warner, he discovered that the cashier had given him a nickel too much.”

“Although it was only a nickel, he went back the same day and returned the money.”  when asked why he would do such a thing, he said , “The money didn’t belong to me, whether it was a nickel or $10, the idea was the same”.

Although Cynthia was only a few years old when it happened,  She remembered because the story, had been told and retold many times.


Talking about such memories binds the family together and gives each member a sense of a common heritage.  It makes you glad to be a part of your family.

Note:  Cynthia is in the center of the picture on the left holding her daughter,  Venessa, who is now  attending college in Texas.

She too knows the story about her great grandfather, Alfred Burr.






It was the summer of 1995.  Our three children were married and had children of their own.  Phyllis and I lived in Springfield, MO and were busy with our own lives.

From time to time, Phyllis reminded me of the promise I had made many years earlier when she and our family followed me all over the United States and to Germany.


I had promised that someday, after the kids were gone, we would enjoy life by traveling around the United States.  We had been out of the Army for about 10 years when I became the librarian at Baptist Bible College (BBC). 

My long suffering wife had not pressed the issue even though our kids were grown and making lives for themselves.

We were both busy.   Cherry Street Baptist Church was a major part of our lives.  Phyllis was in the choir and involved in other activities.  The picture on the left is of Phyllis modeling in a Church fashion show.

I was involved with Church administration and teaching classes.  During this time I unsuccessfully ran for a position on the Springfield Public School board.

We were too busy.  In retrospect I can see that volunteering for this and that good cause can be a good thing but our lives were out of balance.  

We also became foster parents for a period of time.  Although we enjoyed being busy with all these good activities, We were over committed and needed a break.

Christa was a sweet little girl.

As the Librarian at Baptist Bible College, I occasionally went on business trips.  On one of these trips Phyllis and I took our camper to Florida where the Association of Christian Librarians (ACL) held their meeting that year. The ACL supported  Christian Colleges and Universities all over the world preparing men and women for the cause of Christ.

After parking the camper and getting everything set up, I went to the ACL meeting.  The Board members finished Association business, and then, out of the blue, the Secretary place my name in nomination for  President of the ACL.  Since I had been a member for only three yeas, I was surprised and flattered.

Obviously, the secretary had talked to each of the 12 board members because everyone voiced support for my nomination.  The meeting adjourned about midnight.  I was elated thinking about all the things I could do as President. 

I excitedly told Phyllis about the meeting and my potential election as President of the Association.  She looked me with that “look”.  She did not share my excitement and asked me a simple question. “Do you remember the promise you made to me when you got out of the Army?”

Every bit of the excitement I had felt a minute ago vanished.  Of course, I remembered and was suddenly overcome with guilt.  Phyllis had been patient with me for all those years.  What I was planning to do  would change the direction of our lives.  Different from the life I had promised Phyllis.

Two days later we returned to Springfield, MO and  I submitted my resignation to the President of BBC.   We sold our house a few months after that.

We enjoyed our travels around the US for over three years in the late 1990”s. Mainly we spent the winters in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas where we played Golf and Bingo. We traveled north in the summer to Michigan where we played Golf and Bingo. We both had a great time.

I kept my promise.

The lesson I learned is this:  Don’t get so tied up in doing “Good Works” that you get your life out of balance and forget what’s important.


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