Harry Burnell, 91
Harry A. Burnell, 91, passed away on Sept. 14, 2022, at Logan Health Medical Center Kalispell.
He put on his brown cowboy hat, his neon yellow jacket, and rode into the sunset on his Brompton folding bicycle. His great passions in life were skiing, Glacier Park, San Francisco, Lake Blaine and traveling the world. He skied until he was 78, rode his bike to age 85, and his only regret in life was turning down a summer job at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Not bad for 91 ½ years.
Harry Allison Burnell was born on Feb. 6, 1931, in Kalispell. His parents were Arthur and Inez Burnell, but everyone in the family knew them as Grandpa Art and Grandma Art. His siblings were brothers Leslie and Don and sisters PeeWee (Lucille) and Harry’s twin, Shirley. He was preceded in death by his parents and siblings and is survived by three generations of loving nieces and nephews as well as friends around the world.
Harry’s first job was at Apgar at the foot of Lake McDonald when he was 14. It kindled a love affair with Glacier Park that lasted a lifetime. After graduation from Flathead County High School in 1949, Harry finished his first year of college at Northern Montana in Havre. This earned him his first teaching position at Mountain View, a one-room country school near Ashley Lake, at the age of 19. On weekends, he worked and skied at Big Mountain as a member of the ski patrol, which fostered another of his life’s passions. He finished college at Montana State University (now U of M) in Missoula in 1954.
PFC Harry served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, stationed in Germany, where he worked his way out of his job as a company clerk and into one on the Army ski patrol in the German Alps of Garmisch. After his stint in the Army, Harry was accepted into law school, but decided that a career in teaching offered him more flexibility to ski and travel. He completed his teaching credentials in 1958 and worked 24 years as an educator, mainly as a high school business education teacher. The bulk of his teaching career took place in California, and he moved to San Francisco in 1965.
At the age of 29, Harry embarked on his first real estate venture with the purchase of a property in Evergreen, Montana. He built a house on the lot during the summer and rented it to family members for many years. He bought his lovely Edwardian house on Irving Street in San Francisco in 1968, one block from Golden Gate Park. He lived in that home until 2020 when he moved back to Kalispell. In 1970, Harry’s twin sister Shirley died at the age of 39. That same year, he bought his beautiful summer residence on Lake Blaine near Kalispell. It continues to be the gathering place for his ever-expanding extended family. In 1974, he also bought and rented a five-unit, city view building on Laidley Street in San Francisco which he owned for 25 years. Tenants in that building became another extended family of friends.
Harry’s wise investments and constant property improvement provided the means for him to retire from teaching at age 54. He skied, he hiked, and he traveled the world, including over 40 trips to Thailand where he established another family of friends. Frugality was part of his DNA, but he supported so many young relatives and friends, especially in the areas of education or the purchase of a first home. He lived by his own advice, “Follow your bliss.” There will never be another like him.
Austin Funeral & Cremation Services in Whitefish is caring for the family.