John Royer Burt, 87

ALAMOSA — Longtime Alamosa resident, John Royer Burt peacefully passed away Jan. 21, 2020 at Homelake Veterans Center after living a fulfilling 87 years of life. 

He was born St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1932 in Albuquerque, N.M., to Raleigh Orville Burt, and Mabel Eugenia (Hill) (Burt) Hall.

John moved around the country numerous times before calling Alamosa his true home.

He attended Alamosa High School where he was the marching band’s drum major as well as a member of the football team that won state in 1950.

He married his high school sweetheart (Eileen) in 1951 in Alamosa and enjoyed 66 years of marriage before her passing in 2017. He served in the U.S.  Navy while stationed in San Diego during the Korean Conflict for four years.  During his tour, he served on an LST vessel as an engineman transporting Vietnamese refugees to Japan and Hawaii.

John and Eileen welcomed their two daughters, Jaqueline and Noelle, into the world while living in San Diego.

After his service, he returned to Alamosa to be with his many friends, classmates and family while attending Adams State College.

After returning to Alamosa, John worked at the local hospital in the administration department for Elton Reese while attending college.  He then took a job with OK Rubber Welders to work for Norman Afleck as a bookkeeper and tire buster.

John met his soon to be lifetime friend and business partner Art (Shirley) Gilbert while working at the tire store, which eventually was rebranded Big O Tires.  In 1964 John and Art decided to purchase Big O Tires and before the ink could dry on the contract, John and Eileen found out they would be welcoming their son Eric into the world before the year ended.

In 1969, with the help of George VanIwarrden they built a new, state-of–the-art, full-service tire store where the business still operates today as Chaparral Tires.

At Chaparral Tires, John Burt and Art Gilbert were respected for their friendly service, extreme honesty, and dedicated loyalty to their customers and employees for over 40 years.  John was known for his quiet smile, wit, sense of humor, warm demeanor, kindness and his famous hug cards (which he would cash in on a regular basis).

Not having enough to do and feeling the calling to bring another business to the community, John (with Art’s help) decided to open a Baskin Robbins ice cream store in the coldest place in the nation. 

John and his co-manager, (wife) Eileen, taught many young “super scoopers” how to work hard and give great customer service while fulfilling people’s cravings for Pralines-n-Cream, Daiquiri Ice, Matterhorn sundaes, Turtle Pies and many more frozen culinary delights. 

Baskin Robbins became a cornerstone in Alamosa providing community members with a friendly place to build friendships while enjoying a frozen treat, and for many youngsters — their first job.   

After Art’s passing in 2006, John sold Chaparral Tires to long-time employee, Ernie Medina.  He then joined his kids, Eric and Lisa Burt, at Kristi Mountain Sports to assist with bookkeeping chores, as well as making sure all the customers received a warm welcome and one of his trademark hugs/winks/kisses when they came in the store.  He didn’t quite understand the term retirement and continued to assist at Kristi Mountain Sports until 2016.

When John wasn’t taking care of business matters, he loved to square dance at Fun Valley, Jazzercise with his numerous girlfriends, enjoyed Pueblo/Spanish culture in Taos and Santa Fe, hosted class reunions with his faithful classmates, honky-tonked with his good friend, Mark Helms, and recreated in the outdoors. He discovered his lifelong passion for skiing while being a sponsor/driver for the Alamosa High School Ski Club hauling youngsters up to the Wolf Creek ski area. John was well known for his big, red van full of family and friends heading up to the ski slopes all winter long.

John also discovered mountain biking and rode many miles back and forth to work every day on his yellow Peugeot bicycle as well as explore many of the regional mountain bike trails with his wife, Eileen. 

John was a member of Kiwanis club and worked in the lunch car on the Cumbres-Toltec & Silverton Durango line when trips still originated from Alamosa. He was also a lifetime member of BPOE Elks.

Johnny left an indelible legacy of warm friendship, respect, love, honesty and an innate sense of duty to help others.  Many charities and notable causes like Mary’s Kids and the Alamosa High School gymnastics team felt John’s helping hands in years past.

John, Johnny, Dad, Daddy, Grandpa, Johnny B., Papa Burt … you were one-of-a-kind and will truly be missed.

Johnny was preceded in death by his wife, Eileen Eleanor (Hansen) Burt; his parents; and his step-mother, Marguerite Gertrude (Massey) Burt; brother, Richard Burt; and four grandchildren, Timothy Smith, Ramon Vigil, Kayleigh Mae Burt and Gwendolyn Vigil.

Dad was a wonderful father to Jacqueline North (James), of Livingston, Texas; Noelle Vigil (Albert), of Buena Vista; and Eric Burt (Lisa) of Alamosa.  He is also survived by two brothers, Blaine Burt (Karen), of South Fork; and Nolen Burt (Dee) of Colorado Springs; and is also survived by two sisters-in-law, Norma Hansen of Salt Lake City, Utah, and Marie Burt Peoria, Ariz.

Grandpa was his name and calling to Amy (Smith) Kagy (Kevin) Richmond, Texas; Tiffany (Smith)Svatek (Troy), Needville, Texas; Damon Smith ( Trina) Katy, Texas; Genevieve (Vigil) Bonsall,  Denver; Sophia Vigil (Brooks Larson), St. Paul Minn.; Erika (North) DuBose (Craig), Houston, Texas; Raleigh Burt, Alamosa; and Leighton Burt Bozeman, Mont. His legacy continues with 12 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren; and a plethora of nieces, nephews and cousins.

A celebration of life for friends and family to share stories and memories in his honor is being planned for May 2 with details to be announced publicly in the Valley Courier at a later date. 

Please contact Kristi Mountain Sports to be added to the notification/invite list.

John’s ashes will be scattered alongside Eileen’s throughout memorable places in the San Luis Valley — they will forever watch over us from the tops of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and slopes of their favorite ski areas.

Rogers Family Mortuary is in care of the arrangements. 

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