Thursday, April 18, 2024

David Burnham, 81

| February 18, 2024 12:00 AM

David Perley Burnham passed away suddenly on Feb. 9, 2024, at the Whitefish Hospital after a brief illness. He was 81 years old. Whitefish had been his home for more than fifty years.

Dave was born on May 24, 1942, to Perley M. and Theresa F. Burnham of Alexandria, Virginia. After graduating from Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., Dave attended the University of New Mexico on a diving scholarship. Following graduation, he served his country as a Green Beret Army Reservist and worked as a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado. In 1969, he moved to Montana, first to Libby to teach elementary school, then to Whitefish, where he became a licensed commercial real estate broker, an occupation that permitted him to pursue his true love; to confront and conquer any outdoor adventure he faced.

A very brief sample of Dave’s life adventures includes fishing off the coast of South America, mining for gold in Alaska, sailing across the Atlantic, and traveling the world — on foot, on motorcycle, on bicycle, and by train. He was a licensed airplane pilot, an accomplished river runner, a masterful skier, and a skilled open-water sailor.

Yet, amidst all these and so many other exploits, he devoted himself not only to the meticulous and loving home care management of his elderly parents until the end of their lives at the age of 99 but also to the welfare and needs of his entire extended family.

Dave’s greatest legacy was his huge heart. He lived a life of fierce independence from his earliest years until his final days. Yet wherever and however he wandered, he was always mindful and responsive to the needs of all those he loved.

That’s how he will always be remembered by his family, the legion of his friends and associates, and the community of Whitefish.

He leaves behind him a loving and close family; two children, Marc and Christa; six granddaughters, Zoe, India, Ella, Madison, Ayla, and Langley; a sister, Mary Olson and her husband Eric; and a niece, Tamara. 

An older sister, Judith, preceded him in death.

A funeral Mass will be held at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21, with a memorial reception to follow, at the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Whitefish. 

The family requests that donations be forwarded in Dave’s name to the Meals on Wheels program at the Whitefish Community Center. Austin Funeral and Cremation Services in Whitefish is caring for the family. To send online condolences please visit