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DeSorgher: Phil Burr and the MHS Class of 2012

Town historian Richard DeSorgher shares his introduction speech of Phil Burr, who was recently inducted into the Medfield High School Hall of Excellence.

Recently, Phil Burr was inducted into the Hall of Excellence.

The Hall of Excellence is an annual ceremony made up of former graduates of Medfield High School, who excelled in school and who went on to use their Medfield High School education to achieve success and contribute to society in a positive way.

The 2012 induction took place during Class Day at Medfield High School. Mr. Burr’s plaque will be placed with past inductees in the Hall of Excellence, located in the high school hall outside the school’s library. Richard DeSorgher introduced the inductee before the entire student body, including the graduating Class of 2012. His speech introducing Phil Burr, which makes comparisons with this year’s graduating seniors, reads as follows:

"It is an honor for me to introduce Philip J. Burr, a fellow alumnus of Medfield High School and a graduate of the Medfield High School Class of 1947 as the 2012 inductee to the Medfield High School Hall of Excellence.

Now perhaps you might be thinking that the distance in time from 1947 to 2012 would leave little in common with the two graduating classes. But I might differ. True, there are obvious differences. Phil’s Class of 1947 graduated with just 26 seniors and your graduating class graduates with 226 and the Medfield High School that Phil graduated from was then located in the Dale Street School and not this building. And the population of Medfield in 1947 contained just under 3,000 residents, with about the same number also living at the Medfield State Hospital.

Today Medfield’s population is just under 13,000 and the State Hospital has been closed for some 12 years. The total school population when Phil graduated was 399 students in grades k-12. Today 2,811 students make up the Medfield school system.

But there are similarities: Like a Melissa Newell and a John Miner, Phil loves his town of Medfield and is a life long Medfieldian. In fact, he still lives on the same street, Summer Street, that he was brought up on, …. like this year's honor essayists Evan Berry and Anne Scotti, Phil was an honor student and graduated at the top of his class … Like a Warren Lent, Phil was president of his class in his sophomore and junior years and like a Chris Fennell he was vice president of his class his senior year and was a driving force in student government ….

Like a Kyle Andrulonis and several others, Phil was selected to represent Medfield High School at Boys State, ... like a Shelby Scola, Phil was awarded the Harvard Book Award. ... Like an Evan Berry and Megan Tschirch, Phil was a scholar athlete and as a three-sport varsity captain and standout for Medfield High School, he received the Lions Club Trophy for All Around Athletic Ability …. Like a TJ Valente, Phil was a standout and starting varsity third baseman for the high school baseball team, ….. Like a Sam Tawa, Phil was a standout varsity starter and driving force for the high school basketball team and … like an Alex Opiela, Phil was captain and starting quarterback for the football Warriors. ... like a Luke Rosenfeld, who will be attending BU in the fall, Phil attended and received his degree at Boston University after graduating from Medfield High School. And … like a Walker Loeffler, Phil had a strong love of country and profound patriotism.  

When the Korean War broke out, Phil enlisted into the United States Marines and was sent over to the war zone in Korea. On the night of Oct. 8, 1952, Lt. Phil Burr was the Platoon Commander of Company C, First Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division. Phil and his men were hunkered down in trenches with enemy shell fire all around them. Phil, encouraging his men and carrying ammunition, began to organize the defense of their outpost from the attack.

Here, Phil was first wounded by enemy fire. Although painfully wounded, he steadfastly refused to accept medical attention and continued to direct his men in the defense of their position. Hurled to the ground and wounded a second time by the explosion of an enemy shell, while engaged in carrying ammunition to his men, he continued to supervise the supply of ammunition until he was seriously wounded still again. Now immobilized by his many wounds and evacuated to the medical aid bunker, he skillfully controlled the defense while receiving treatment from a corpsman and maintained complete charge of his unit until relieved by another officer.

Phil received the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for Heroic Action which stated: “By his indomitable courage, superb leadership and valiant fighting spirit, Lt. Burr served to inspire his men to heroic endeavor in their successful defense of the outpost.”

Phil returned home from the war to recover from his wounds and here he was married and raised his family; his children also graduating from Medfield High School.

But his same commitment and sense of duty to country stayed with him as he settled into civilian life in his hometown. Phil represents one of the best examples of what Thomas Jefferson called the “Active Citizen.”

First, working on behalf of our youth, he gave a long career as an educator and football coach at Melrose High School. Next, Phil was Medfield’s Veterans’ Agent from 1958-1971. He has been the Commander and active member with the American Legion, Beckwith Post 110 for over 50 years. He was elected to the Medfield School Committee and served the students and town of Medfield from 1972-1981.

Phil served on the committee started by school superintendent Bob Maguire to honor those veterans from WWII, who left Medfield High School and went off to war without receiving their high school diploma. A long time member of the Medfield Historical Society, Phil has served as one of its Curators.  Phil is a faithful town meeting participant and has also served the town as a member of the Conservation Commission for the past 13 years. Last Veterans’ Day he was selected as the keynote speaker for the dedication of The Korean War Veterans’ Plaque that was dedicated and hung on the outside wall of the Dale Street School gymnasium.

His entire life has been spent in service to others. Please join me in welcoming from the Medfield High School Class of 1947, Philip James Burr."

Chad June 15, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Nice to hear about my ol buddies' (same class @ school) Dad. Get to know folks a lill deeper. And that's a good thing!
Jane Holmquist Rabesa June 15, 2012 at 01:22 PM
What a great article! A long time friend of my parents, I still remember Mr. Burr's look of pride and smile as he handed me my diploma, Class of '74. Congratulations to Mr. Burr!

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