Jack C. Burch (NSS #2175)

This is a new forum to recognize our many caving friends that we have lost. Please feel free to post an "In memory of" thread about your caving friends you have lost.

Jack C. Burch (NSS #2175)

Postby Cheryl Jones » Jun 17, 2009 10:38 pm

The caving world has lost one of its grand old gentlemen. Jack C. Burch (NSS #2175) passed away on Monday from complications due to Alzheimer's Disease. Services will be held on either Thursday or Friday of this week.

Jack's contributions to caving are legion and I'm not the person that should put them to paper as others were much more familiar with him and his accomplishments. I'm sure a more detailed accounting of his life will be forthcoming in the NSS News and Texas Caver. Until then, here are a few remembrances :

Jack started his caving career in Oklahoma as a young man in the 1950s. He is regarded by many as the Father of Oklahoma Caving and founded the Arbuckle Mountain Grotto, the first NSS grotto in Oklahoma , in the 1950s. Jack received the April 1956 NSS News and saw an article written by Bart Crisman describing a "Secret Cave" in west Texas with extraordinary speleothems. He was immediately interested and soon paid a visit to Crisman to find out more about the cave. The cave was Mayfield Cave (Caverns of Sonora) and Jack made his first visit there on June 15, 1957. After a few more visits to the cave, Jack decided that "conservation by commercialization" was the only way to save the cave from future degradation. He and James Papadakis (NSS #3630) formed a partnership and negotiated a lease from the landowner, Stanley Mayfield. After conducting a transit survey of the main portion of the cave in 1959, construction of the commercial trail began in 1960. Visitors to the cave still marvel at the masterful engineering and meticulous attention to detail which was taken to construct the trail with as little damage as possible to the fragile speleothems. The cave was open for tours on July 16, 1960, less than 6 months since trail building began.
Jack's career as a professional commercial cave consultant and trail builder was not over. He built several more extensions to the trail in Caverns of Sonora, and was hired to commercialize Natural Bridge Caverns in 1963. Trail building began in NBC on March 7, 1963 and was completed to the Hall of the Mountain Kings by June of the following year, just in time for the first public viewing of the cave by attendees of the 1964 NSS Convention in New Braunfels, Texas. Jack assisted in the commercialization plans for the Rio Camuy Cave in Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s. In 1967, Jack served as the chairman of the Texas Speleological Association. He was made a Fellow of the NSS in 1969. He was subsequently honored as a pioneer of Oklahoma caving in 1986 by the newly formed Southern Plains Region of the NSS.

He will be missed.
Jerry Atkin
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Cheryl Jones
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