Harold Pete Burnett, Minturn resident, 1928 – 2007 | VailDaily.com
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Harold Pete Burnett, Minturn resident, 1928 – 2007

Vail, CO Colorado

A true native son, Harold Pete Burnett was born at home in Minturn on March 26, 1928. He loved the outdoors and was most at home fishing, hunting, or just roaming on his horse. His father was a Colorado railroader from Salida and Poncha Springs. His grandmother cooked at a boarding house at Holy Cross City during the gold mining days.Pete attended school in Minturn. He had to get his parents permission to leave school to join the Navy during World War II and serve his country. After coming home, he became an apprentice electrician in the Gilman Mine. He met Ella Marie Warren (Miss Red Cliff 1943) and quickly took her off the marriageable market. They married in July 1948 in the home of her brother in Red Cliff. Ella was from a big family and she said, Pete hung onto me for dear life with all those relatives around. They went fishing at Rudi Reservoir on their honeymoon.He was a corker laughs his sister-in-law, Lavinia Henke, who knew him before he met Ella. He was always up to something. She recounts numerous pranks including one where Pete and a friend borrowed some sheep and put them in the back of his car, then offered Lavinia and her friend a ride. There was another time Pete and Lavinias husband met an attractive young woman who was selling magazines to put herself through college. They bought 15 subscriptions and Lavinia had more magazines than she knew what to do with. Pete and Ella spent the summer of 1952 with Lavinia and her husband in Alaska when their daughter was born. Pete worked in the cannery and in a mine where they were ecstatic to have an electrician instead of another heavy equipment operator.He always wanted a business of his own. Pete and Ella built and operated a Laundromat on Pine Street in Minturn. It was a good business but a lot of work. Ella was working full-time as a nurse at the Gilman mine, doing the books for the Laundromat as well as helping with the operations. Pete became quite ill and Ella told him that was the end of being an entrepreneur.

Pete began working for the Town of Vail in 1962 and headed up the Public Works Department until he retired in 1993. He and his crew put in the gas lines, streets, and helped the town grow from the very start. His boys all called him dad. They still think of him that way today. He had a huge impact on their lives. He expected a lot and he was proud of men they became. In 1989, Pete represented the town of Vail on a trip to Russia as part of People to People, sharing his expertise. He brought back gifts of leaded crystal for Ella and her sisters, packed in big fur hats,He had a vast fund of knowledge and life experiences. He could fix anything with baling wire and determination. His passion was working with leather. He would fashion all manner of trappings and equipment for his horses to make them more comfortable on pack trips back into the mountains. If an animal showed any kind of discomfort, Pete would remake gear that wouldnt rub. He took such good care of his horses, his nephew Barry Evans said. Pete never burdened them and always looked after their needs first. He also made things for his boys vests, sheaths, even gauntlets. Pack trips with him were the best. Evans said he couldnt get off work quick enough if Uncle Pete had a trip going. And back when Minturn had a volunteer fire department, Pete was a member. Ella still has a note written by Petes mother giving permission for her 16-year-old son to join. He also served on the Minturn Town Council off and on for 27 years.He also was a champion of children. Once we dragged him to the ice-capades, his niece Phyllis Ruder remembers. A group of young girls was seated in front of us. When Intermission came, all but one girl got up to get refreshments. Uncle Pete leaned over and asked why the remaining one didnt go too. She told him she didnt have any money. Uncle Pete promptly remedied the situation and took her to get whatever she wanted.

His seemingly gruff exterior hid his good-hearted and generous spirit. He let one elderly lady live on part of his property, rent free, for as long as she lived. She repaid his kindness with homemade tamales and green chili during the entire time.A band of elk often spends harsher winters around the house and corral of the Burnett property. Last spring the herds bull shed his antlers in front of Pete, as if to say thanks for the safe harbor.Ella said, Pete didnt believe in buying flowers, but hed carefully pack them in saddlebags and bring them to her from one of his mountain adventures. He loved his horse, his dog and Ella. Although she says thats probably the correct order, his remembered wink and secret smile would challenge that. He would have liked you think he was a curmudgeon. His conversation was peppered with colorful language and imaginative adjectives. He liked a good joke and had a great laugh. His handshake was firm and his word was true. Pete will always be loved and memorialized in the hearts of those who were blessed to know and love him.Burnett is survived by Ella Warren Burnett, his wife of 59 years; his brother William Burnett and wife Davey; and numerous nieces, nephews and scores of kids who called him dad. His parents and his sister Bernice Burnett Moore precede him in death.Services will be held Jan. 12 at 1 p.m. at the Presbyterian Church on Nottingham Road in Avon. There will be a simple reception immediately following.


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