Burgess remembered as ‘man with a big heart’

Published 12:03 am Thursday, January 10, 2013

Local fire departments and the Opp community are mourning the loss of a “man with a big heart.”

Capt. Jonathan Burgess, 33, who worked at the Opp Fire Department and the South Alabama Regional Airport, died suddenly at the airport on Tuesday.

OFD chief Joey Williams said Burgess meant a great deal to the fire department.

Burgess joined the fire department as a volunteer in January 1999 and then moved up to a full-time position, Williams said.

He also had worked part time for SARA as an airport fire fighter since April 2009.

Williams said Burgess will be remembered most for his sense of humor and his kindness to others.

“He was a big guy with a big heart,” he said. “He loved children, and he worked well with kids when they came over for fire prevention week each year. He was a kind-hearted person and very humble. He was always willing to help or reach out to others.”

SARA co-executive director Jed Blackwell echoed Williams’ sentiments.

“Jonathan was a man who gave his heart and soul to his community,” Blackwell said. “He was loved and respected by all of his peers. He was a man of honesty, integrity and compassion. He truly was one of the good guys. He will forever be in our hearts.”

Not only was Burgess a good person, but he was also an excellent firefighter, Williams said.

“He was very knowledgeable,” Williams said. “He had all kinds of credentials. He went to all kinds of classes. He always wanted to learn more, so that he could help people. He really loved what he did.”

Williams said he never had to worry about the job being done correctly when Burgess was around.

“He was good in his position,” he said. “He was good at wrecks and in fire fighting. He also enjoyed going into the schools. He and Capt. (Cory) Spurlin taught a fire fight extinguish class each year at the high school and they also taught them at the senior center.”

Williams said he feels like part of the OFD is missing.

“(Burgess is) going to be missed,” Williams said. “He was a loving person and he had the kind of personality that he wanted you to know he was there for you. It’s going to be a long, sad time until we can pick back up.”

Burgess is survived by his wife, Carrie Lord Burgess.

Funeral arrangements are incomplete and Wyatt Funeral Home is in charge.