AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, May 16, 2014
Lee Burchill's Voice Reaches Out From Past
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, May 16, 2014
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
I write a column.Other times, the
column writes itself.This is one of
those latter instances.
Mike Kirby recently informed me I had received a letter at the newspaper
office, and forwarded it on.When I read
it, the past seemed to be speaking to me.I knew I had to share it with those who regularly read this space.
I wrote about the dedication of a new sign at the Lee Burchill Complex in
Norton, and retold part of the story of the young man after who the fields were
named.He had been shot and paralyzed
while still in high school.Now suddenly,
I was holding a letter from someone who had taken care of him during his many
trips to the hospital.
recent article on Lee Burchill is what prompted me to write”, the letter
began.It told of the writer working in
a hospital and first meeting Lee long after he had been shot.He wrote of Lee always being happy despite
enduring tremendous pain.
said it felt like electronic zaps.A face
cloth on his skin felt like a cheese grater”, the letter went on.The author told of trips to visit Lee in
Norton, and beeping at him as the paraplegic youngster would wheel himself
around his Grove neighborhood.
he revealed the final act of friendship he performed for Lee.He was on duty at the hospital when Lee died,
and took part in preparing his body for his final journey.
Head Nurse knew Lee was a friend, and told him he did not have to do this.But our anonymous caring individual
remembered saying, “I will do it for that exact reason, he was my
friend.I will help him pass into this
next phase of life which will be pain-free for him”, he wrote.
touching and meaningful as his letter was, the author (anonymous here at his
request) added another surprise.He
included two letters Lee had personally written to him months before he died,
with the help of a special device (remember, this was 1981).
my wife and I gazed down at the letters, we could almost hear Lee’s raspy voice
emanating from the printed pages.There
was no doubt they were from him, as his trademark cockiness and sense of humor
in the face of incredible challenges came through clearly.Please allow me to share one dated February
just wanted to thank every one of you for your get well card and tell you all
just how much it was appreciated.Right
now, I’m home from Tufts, but I’ll be going back in a few weeks for an
operation.I’m scheduled to have brain
surgery.You see, the doctors don’t think
it’s fair for one man to be so intelligent.So they’re simply going to remove half my brain.You understand, don’t you?It’s to give the other countries a
chance.It’s my duty as an American
went on for a bit, then concluded by writing:“Well, “The Burch” is going to take off now,
but anytime you are in the area, don’t be afraid to drop over.Again, I’d just like to thank all of you for
taking such great care of me.As a
matter of fact, if I ever get shot again, I’ll be sure to make sure that I’m
sent to you.”
was signed “Your satisfied patient, Lee Burchill (The Burch)”.
was written by a man who had spent the previous 8-1/2 years unable to walk and
in constant pain.An athlete known for
his cockiness who now had to have even his most basic needs attended to by
others.A person who had every reason to
give up and become bitter, yet remained able to appreciate the things others
did for him.
kind soul who contacted me was so impressed by Lee that he still has these
letters some 33 years later.Lee had
that kind of effect on people.
also reaffirms that the people of Norton didn’t name those baseball fields
after Lee because he died.They did it
because of how he lived.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
a longtime local official.He can be
emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at