EDITORIAL: Gary Burt, advocate for city youth, leaves powerful legacy 

The youth of Meriden lost a very good friend with the passing of Gary Burt on Jan. 28. He was “a fixture at the Meriden Boys & Girls Club and a big-hearted father figure and mentor,” according to a Record-Journal story that reported on Burt’s death, quoting many local people strongly influenced by his work and life.

R-J reporter Michael Gagne’s in memoriam profile of Burt, who died age 79, describes a dedication to local youth that ran wide and deep. Burt, known to friends and colleagues as “Tex,” was involved with the Boys & Girls Club for more than 40 years, with 30 years as executive director. His tenure oversaw the expansion of the Lincoln Street facility and also Camp Cuno. Programs also expanded during his era, including opening up to girls when the club became co-educational in 2000 after more than a century as the Boys Club.

These are great accomplishments on their own, however it is Burt’s devotion to the children the club served that comes across as the strongest thread in the fabric of his legacy.

Burt’s approach was subtle, writes Gagne. He interviewed Larue Graham, the club’s executive director, who described Burt’s style this way: “Sometimes, it was just a smile. Sometimes, it was just his hand on your shoulder, telling you, ‘Good job.’ But he just always made you feel welcomed.”

Now a city councilor, Graham was 10 years old when he first met Burt. Graham recalled that Burt made him, and all the youth who came to the club, feel welcome. Many came from poorer neighborhoods.

Gagne writes that “those who knew Burt estimated he positively influenced thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Meriden youth during his decades with the club.” And those with financial needs were not turned away.

Don Maleto, a former club executive director, also knew Burt, from the 1980s, as his coach in Little League. Maleto told Gagne that Burt had a calm and patient presence.

 “He’s a very kind person. He was understanding and dedicated to the kids…he just made sure that everybody got the opportunity to play. He was there for us,” Maleto said.

These quick takes on Burt’s legacy are only small sample of the kind words and fond recollections that people around the city expressed in interviews with Gagne.

 “It’s a loss for the city of Meriden,” said Graham, also stating an intent to “hopefully do some justice to the legacy he left behind.”

There will be a period of mourning for Gary Burt, but ultimately there will be a celebration of his life. Much of that celebration will be played out in the lives of those he influenced. In their kindness and generosity, their leadership and community service, their willingness to share his gifts with others and take his legacy forward.


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