Aaron Burr was a towering, yet gentle, soft-spoken leader, who rose through the ranks during his two decades at the Akron Beacon Journal.
Mr. Burr worked at the Beacon Journal for 23 years, eventually leading the newspaper’s circulation and human resources departments.
He was also a retired school teacher and assistant principal in the Akron Public School system, where he worked 15 years.
He taught history and social studies at Ellet High School, Litchfield Junior High and East High School. In 1982, he became assistant principal at Hyre Junior High.
Mr. Burr worked in circulation for six years before taking over as the newspaper’s human resources director in 1996. He stayed in the position until he retired on April 1.
Mr. Burr died Thursday at his home of natural causes. He was 65.
Family members and friends said he was working hard on his health, determined to feel better.
“He was so proud of how well he did last week when we walked a mile together in the park,” said his wife, Margaret, of 25 years. “He wasn’t feeling well but I couldn’t get him to go to the hospital or call the doctor. He thought whatever it was, it would pass and it didn’t.”
Ironically he died on the anniversary of their first date, June 27, 1983, when they celebrated the July 4th festival in downtown Akron and then went to the Goodyear Metropolitan Park to eat and talk.
His daughter, Marlette, said her father was passionate about good food and “loved a good hamburger.” She said he had made himself a hamburger the day he died.
“You have to understand the significance of that. He ate every morsel of that hamburger, then he died in his sleep,” she said.
Mr. Burr stood 6 feet 6, but he is remembered as a quiet, yet smooth person, who was easy to talk to and a good listener.
“He was an exceptional leader, who guided the Beacon Journal through many changes, especially when the newspaper was sold,” said Publisher Andrea Mathewson. “It was quite a big task to bring in all the HR functions that were once housed at Knight-Ridder corporate offices.
“I called the HR department ‘The Little Department That Could’ because Aaron had to figure out how to get it all done. I always thought he was one of the most steadfast leaders at the Beacon.”
She said he was solid like a rock.
“A lot of times you would solve your own issue by just talking to him because he would guide the conversation, even with senior managers, without being too opinionated to let people come to their own conclusion,” Mathewson said.
A native of Muskogee, Okla., Mr. Burr was the oldest of five children. He earned his bachelor’s degree in history and secondary education at Northeast Oklahoma State University and later his master’s degree in education administration at the University of Akron.
Mr. Burr moved to Akron in 1971. His wife said he came to the area on the advice of his aunt, Lucille Burr, who claimed there would be better opportunities for him in the Akron Public School system over the Muskogee school system, where he was employed as a teacher.
Mr. Burr loved playing golf. He was president of Tire Town Golf Charities the past 12 years and a member of the organization for about 25 years.
“He was a good golfer and a good president, he made quality decisions and was a good organizer. We will miss his leadership,” said Joe Patterson, Tire Town tournament director. “I saw him on Tuesday and talked with him on Wednesday. He was excited about our tournament coming up on July 13, and we talked about new ideas.”
Patterson also worked with him at the Beacon for several years in circulation and said his friend moved up the ranks quickly.
“I trained him as a district manager and he went on to become my boss as the supervisor of circulation. He picked up things very easily.”
Mrs. Burr said her husband’s father named him Aaron Burr because it was a catchy name and would always draw attention. Mr. Burr said he had his fair share of jokes with his name while teaching history, but not so much from his family or friends.
“Who would tease a 6-foot-6 guy about his name? I know I never did,” said Patterson, who stands a foot shorter. “It was more like, ‘How are you doing, Mr. Burr?’?”
An active member at St. John Christian Methodist Episcopal Church on South Hawkins Avenue, Mr. Burr also served on various United Way committees, the First Tee Board of Directors and Legacy III. He was also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Mr. Burr is survived by five children: Ericka Burr, Shonnie (Steve) Phillips, Marlette (Jess) Brantley, Rachel (Mario) Cobian and Johnnie (Endura) Robinson; six grandchildren and one great-grandson.
Funeral arrangements will be handled by Stewart & Calhoun, 529 W. Thornton St., in Akron. Details have not been finalized.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or firstname.lastname@example.org.