Al's Story

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Alfred Earl Burch (Big Al), 80, of Cullman, Ala. passed away peacefully at his home with his family on February 27, 2018.
Alfred Earl Burch was born on December 23, 1937 in Emporia, Kan. the son of Jarvis and Anna (Brewer) Burch. He married Glenda Rae Hensley on February 13, 1965 and they enjoyed 53 wonderful years together, she survives. He attended elementary school in Emporia prior to graduation from Council Grove High School in 1955. He attended Emporia State University until taking an engineering position at Boeing in Wichita. In 1962 Boeing transferred him to Huntsville, Ala. While there he obtained a degree in Systems/Mechanical Engineering at the University of Alabama, Huntsville and a Master of Science in Management degree from the Southeastern Institute of Technology in Huntsville and completed all course work for doctorate except for the dissertation. While at Boeing in Huntsville he worked on the NASA Saturn V project where he completed the first set of production drawings for the Saturn S-IC fuel tanks. When his tenure ended at Boeing he worked at Teledyne-Brown Engineering for fifteen years in the position as Section Chief/Senior Technical Specialist with increasing responsibility. While involved in the design of space vehicle structures, he designed the NASA Sky Lab's deployable solar arrays and both the preliminary and final designs of several of the structural components of the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster. A full scale model of his deployable solar array design was hung in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In 1977 he joined United Space Boosters, Inc. as Manager of Mechanical and Systems Engineering and later as Deputy Director of Engineering. While there he was responsible for the design of solid rocket booster components and the assembly and launch of solid rocket boosters for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In 1983 he accepted a position in Cullman as Director of Engineering/Operations for a large Manufacturing facility specializing in ultra-precision machining. Most of this work was on guidance and control system components for spacecraft and military missiles. In 1986 he was assigned work in Utah as Vice President/General Manager Creating a facility to inspect, measure and machine motor cases for solid rocket boosters. He ended his professional career as Vice President/Project Manager for Pace & Waite Inc. of Huntsville, prime contractor at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. He Managed flight configuration of all the Center's project. During this time he also taught courses related to supervision, business, management, marketing and industrial management at Wallace State College in Hanceville, Ala. After retirement, he continued to work part-time for Pace & Waite Inc. for several years on special projects. A fun project for Big Al (a term of affection due to his 6'5" height) was creating audio and video production commercials, industrial videos and multi-camera, on-location, sports programming for the local high school. He was a member of American MENSA, a member of Cullman Chamber of Commerce and involved in many school organizations and events when his daughters were in school. He tool part in many activities of Cullman First Baptist Church until his health limited his ability to attend functions.
Al will live on in the hearts of his wife Glenda and their two daughters, Angela Kay Burch of Cullman and Alison Rae Burch Barksdale of Clearwater, Fla. and two grandchildren, Joshua Barksdale of Cullman and Faith Ellen Barksdale of Palm Bay, Fla.
Surviving siblings include three sisters, Norma Stinnett, Kathleen (Fred) Dalton, Christy Schreck, all from Emporia; seven nieces and nephews; Ricci Balkenhol, Gary Stinnett and Lori Sibenaler all of Emporia, Todd Park Mohr of Littleton, Colo., Troy Park Mohr of Scottsdale, Ariz., Eric Dalton, Lee Summit, Missouri, and Aaron Dalton of Tulsa, Okla.
He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Mary Ann Ryer of Greely, Colo.
In his family when a situation called for the knowledge of a "Rocket Scientist" they had their own in "AEB" as he was a true Rocket Scientist and will be missed by many.
Family and friends may gather to remember Al on Saturday, March 3 at First Baptist Church of Cullman, 501 2nd Ave SW, Cullman, Ala.
Visitation will be from 10 a.m. with service following at 11 a.m.
Published on March 1, 2018
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