The following was written by my daughter Suzette, in honor of her granddaddy, and was read at his funeral:
America’s Greatest Generation showed us quite a few honorable ideals to imitate. Of that number, one in particular has captured my attention and has earned a place of greatness in my heart — Thomas Burt.
He gave honor to whom honor was due, as shown by his high regard for brave American soldiers before, during and after his own time on enemy territory.
He valued the freedom of others enough to travel halfway around the world on treacherous seas, just to defend those who could not defend themselves.
He also cared for his wife in sickness as in health, with the same loving sparkle in his eye as the day they were wed. He never really got over her death, and would cry whenever conversation turned to her. Although he loved life on earth, he longed to be with her once more.
He described music as “an old friend” to which he could keep coming back. Judging by his self-made repertoire, he and music must have been very good friends.
He instantly captivated his audience, whether it be alongside the Southern Serenaders in the city, or strumming “Out of a Clear Blue Sky” on his guitar. If he was in an especially fun mood he might even recite “Telephone for Sergeant Malone” or “Frankie.”
If he wasn’t singing music he was playing it. “It Is Well With My Soul” was one of his personal favorites that he neither I ever got tired of hearing.
He endured through the most trying times — both known and unknown by the public eye. He fought and lived through some of our country’s most difficult times, as well as his own personal battles.
But he never gave up. He came through it all with incredible strength and was even able to smile and laugh again, no matter how hard the trial.
Even in his death he never gave up. When so many others would have let go, he held on, but never for himself. He kept fighting for those he loved, just like he had done his whole life. Although he was suffering, he looked past himself and saw people who needed him, and he kept on fighting.
I don’t know about anyone else, but those are some ideals that I would be doing well to emulate.
And although he held on for quite some time, I suppose not even he could resist the sight of his dear wife just over on the other side. Perhaps he caught a glimpse of the perfect, painless future ahead, and somehow knew that all of us here would be alright after all. Perhaps he took his will to live, and willed to live in the place where the soul never dies. Perhaps on his last breath his wife, Heaven’s most beautiful angel, took him by the hand and welcomed him home at last, where they would never have to part again.
Although Thomas Burt stepped out of this life and into Heaven that day, it is certain that from now on, his troubles really will be miles away. And although we grieve, it is only because we wish we could go with him. There is a hello after goodbye, and we look forward to it now more than ever before. And although he is gone, his legacy lives on as one to be admired and copied. Work hard. Be happy. Love music. Cherish others. Never give up.
It is a tall order to follow after these ideals that made America great, but they are honorable and necessary. One man in particular has made a lasting impression on me using these qualities. He is my hero, my grandfather — Thomas Burt.