Franklin A. Burchill, 70, public school custodian, longtime VFW member


Franklin A. Burchill, a retired Baltimore County public school custodian and school bus attendant who was active in VFW affairs and walked the trail of World War II's infamous Bataan Death March -- which his brother survived -- died of liver cancer May 12 at Sinai Hospital. The Owings Mills resident was 70.

Mr. Burchill was born and raised in Frackville, Pa. He served with an Army artillery unit in Germany from 1953 to 1959, then was a construction worker until becoming a custodian in 1979.

He was chief custodian at Scotts Branch, Pot Springs, Wellwood and Woodmoor elementary schools before retiring in 1995.

For five years, until retiring in 2005, he was a school bus attendant and worked with special needs children.

"Frank loved working with autistic children. He was very compassionate and had lots of patience," said his wife of 50 years, the former Joyce Latch, also a school bus attendant.

He was a life member and former commander of Lt. Peter G. Zouck Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 521 in Owings Mills. He also held VFW positions at the state and national levels. He had served several times as commander of District 7, commander of the VFW's Maryland Department and as the organization's national chief of staff.

"The VFW was his hobby," Mrs. Burchill said.

Several years ago, while attending a VFW meeting in the Philippines, Mr. Burchill decided that he wanted to retrace the route of the Bataan Death March that occurred after the surrender in 1942 of Bataan and Corregidor to Japanese forces. About 75,000 American and Filipino soldiers were marched by Japanese soldiers to a railhead where they were transported to prison camps.

An estimated 17,000 soldiers perished during the 65-mile trek -- many of them slain by their captors.

"He did it in memory of his brother Raymond Burchill, who survived the march and at the end of the war weighed 98 pounds," Mrs. Burchill said. "He said it was very emotional and brought back the stories he had heard from his brother. I was so glad that he had the chance to do that."

In addition to his work with the VFW, Mr. Burchill enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and taking them fishing.

He had been a member of the old World of Life Lutheran Church.

Services were Tuesday.

Also surviving are a daughter, Margaret Elkins of Bel Air; a sister, Ann Hoover of Dover, Del.; and three grandchildren. His son, John Burchill, died in 1980.

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