Former mayor Bob Burnside passes away Sunday at 70

Sheila Stubler, left, park manager at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, presents an award to Bob Burnside in 2013. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Sheila Stubler, left, park manager at Fort Verde State Historic Park in Camp Verde, presents an award to Bob Burnside in 2013. (Photo by Bill Helm)

CAMP VERDE - He said what he meant - and he meant what he said.

But he did it with love. Love for his community - and love for the community's people.

On Aug. 14, Camp Verde's Bob Burnside passed away at 70 years of age. Said Camp Verde Town Council member Carol German, Burnside was "definitely a friend to Camp Verde."

"He cared about Camp Verde and was always willing to do whatever he could to benefit the town," German said. "Bob was a good friend and I, as well as many others, will miss him."

For some, 70 seems old. But those who knew Burnside knew that he was just getting started.

Most recently, the man born Sept. 11, 1945 served on the Town of Camp Verde's Planning and Zoning Commission. Burnside and his fellow commissioners had recently finished work on the Town's General Plan.

Anyone who attended a commission meeting just had to listen closely to understand how much Burnside loved Camp Verde, wanted to see it succeed - and the responsibility he felt to do right by its people.

"One of the things I respected about Bob was that he didn't just voice an opinion," said Commission Chairman B. J. Davis. "He wasn't just a man of words. He was a man of action."

For years, Camp Verdeans have been more than familiar with the Old Guys, a group of men who replace, renovate, install, fix, conceptualize and build things to make the town a better place.

Burnside worked on more than a few of their projects, including the new snack shack between the Ramada and Fort Verde State Historic Park on Hollamon Street.

Bruce George, also one of the Old Guys - and vice mayor on the town council, one wrote to Burnside about their mutual goal, "the betterment of Camp Verde."

"As I have gotten to know you, I have gained respect for you and what you are trying to do," George said in the letter.

Camp Verdean Robert Foreman remembers in one of their first interactions more than 20 years ago.

"Bob personally fixed a plumbing problem in my home. Took him a few hours of fairly hard work. And I was just looking for a reference," said Foreman, the Town of Camp Verde's Building Official. "And he refused to let me pay him for it. When I tried to pay him, he said, 'Hell no, this is what community does for each other."

As the Camp Verde's mayor from 2009-2013, Burnside "paid attention to all the details," Foreman also said.

Said Town Manager Russ Martin, Camp Verde "was fortunate to have him as mayor for the time he was willing to serve."

"He had a great heart for the community," Martin said. "That was undeniable."

Camp Verde Community Development Director Mike Jenkins fondly recalled how Town Staff affectionately referred to Burnside as "Bodacious Bob."

"Bob used that word many times when he was mayor," Jenkins said. "That's how he got that nickname."

The Urban Dictionary defines bodacious as a combination of the words bold and audacious: impressive, awesome, brave in action, remarkable and prodigious. To many who have known him, Burnside's commitment to Camp Verde and its people was each of those things.

"He served the town well," Foreman said. "He was a good man. I'm going to miss him."

CAMP VERDE - Bob Burnside has never been much for gambling, his wife Suzy says. Typically, the couple would go to the casino where Bob would mostly people watch.

"And he would play cards, four pennies to a hand," Suzy says. "Five dollars would last him four hours. Once, he was so proud that he won $69 on four cents!"

The Burnsides spent the afternoon of Aug. 14 at Cliff Castle Casino Hotel in Camp Verde when Bob went for a restroom break.

"That's where he died," says Camp Verde resident Michael Garrison, Bob's best friend of 10 years. "Suzy started looking for him. That's when she found out that Bob passed."

First responders found Bob unconscious in the bathroom. Suzy says that they told her CPR efforts were unsuccessful.

"He was gone instantly," she says. "It appears to have been a heart attack, but we don't know for sure yet. He was not ill."

Garrison says Bob's death that afternoon was "like losing a piece of yourself."

"I consider him my best friend," says Garrison. "Someone you could talk to and know that it stays between the two of you. He's my hunting buddy, my fishing buddy."

To Suzy, Bob was her friend as well as her husband.

"And I'm going to miss him, she says. "He had a real sense of fairness. Bob was not afraid to say he had taken a second look at something and changed his mind. He figured you only look bad if you make a bad decision and continue to live by it."

The Burnsides met in 1987. Suzy was a general contractor - and Bob was her foreman.

"We met on a job site," she says. "In many ways, I think it was [love at first sight]."

Together, they raised her son Thomas Anderson. But really, Anderson was their son.

"He didn't have to do it," says Anderson, now living in San Diego, California. "It was a choice. He was always there for me."

Anderson remembers a day growing up when he came home from school and asked Bob for a calculator.

"Dad said I 'didn't need no ... calculator,'" Anderson recalls. "He told me he'd teach me to use my head to do the math."

"People call me 'rainman' now, because he taught me how to do numbers," Anderson says. "Dad's the most common-sense, no-nonsense person. And he raised me to be like that."

Both Suzy Burnside and Thomas Anderson, as well as Michael Garrison talk of how selfless Bob was. And each talks of the hole in their lives now that he is gone.

"He'd do anything for anybody," Anderson says. "People talk about how proud their fathers are of them. Dad was proud of me. And I was proud of him. I couldn't be more grateful to have been raised by him."



-- Bill Helm

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