Samuel Curtis Burger, 59, died peacefully on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, with his loving family at his side in his home on the banks of the Chatanika River after a courageous battle with lung cancer. Born in Centerville on Jan. 19, 1955, he lived most of his life in Alaska. He graduated from Moulton-Udell High School.
Sam is survived by his beloved wife of 12 years, Theresa Bauer-Burger; his parents, Richard A. and Ann (Witmore) Burger; his brother, Dr. Richard Burger (Gail); sisters, Annette (Andrew Graves) and Naomi (Chip Downing); sister-in-law, June (Ware) Burger (John); his sons, Saul, Shane, Tell and Joel (Jessica) in Alaska; his former wife and mother of his children, Jean Heusinkveld; his two beautiful grandchildren, Hannah and Sawyer Burger; as well as numerous dearly loved nephews, nieces, their children and extended family.
Sam was preceded in death by his dear oldest brother, John Witmore Burger.
Sam was a man that you would want by your side during a crisis. Sam was known for his problem-solving abilities, fixing with innovation and unconventional methods. He was physically strong, intelligent, resourceful, inventive, innovative, self-reliant, quick-thinking, dependable, kind, honest, loyal and hard-working. He had hard muscles and a soft heart. Sam couldn’t resist kids, dogs, ice cream, Jack London or a challenge to beat a high mark on a snowmachine.
Sam’s strong character was instilled in his youth growing up on his family’s farm in Iowa, working alongside his father and brothers. At age 15 he ran the farm independently while his father was recovering from back surgery. By 18, Sam partnered in a concrete construction business, renowned for its speediness and craftsmanship.
Sam’s dreams of adventure brought him to Alaska. He traveled here on a motorcycle as a teen, and later moved to Alaska with his wife Jean. He embraced the Alaskan lifestyle; hunting, living self-sufficiently in remote areas, placer gold mining (S&J Mining and Salvage), and snowmachining (Happy Wanderers and Sno-RV, Inc.). Sam and a small group of close friends formed the Happy Wanderers Snowmobile Club, which became active in Chatanika community events. These families formed lifelong bonds and their children carry on the tradition of the Happy Wanderers. Sam’s boys all cherish their memories of growing up on Haystack Mountain, north of Fairbanks. In recent years, Sam applied his innovative, problem-solving skills in the Poker Flat Research Range family as their facilities supervisor.
In 2001 Sam married Theresa Bauer, of Chatanika. Sam’s passion for Theresa and her music was evident in the undying enthusiasm he gave to her musical endeavors. He supported her talents, becoming her sound manager, as they traveled to Theresa’s performances all over the state. Sam and Theresa shared a home on the banks of the Chatanika River, a place Sam loved and cherished and where he found fulfillment in his final years.
A gathering of celebration and remembrance will be held for Sam Burger by his family on Sunday, March 2, from 2-4 p.m. at the Chatanika Lodge at 28.5 mile, Old Steese Highway.