Husband, father, conversationalist, marketer, traveller. Born June 10, 1961, in Middlesbrough, England. Died April 8, 2012, in Calgary from a brain tumour, aged 50.
Neil Burton could walk up to anyone, start talking to them and make them feel important and entertained. His life was one big conversation, at times to the dismay of his three children.
The highlight of any event or activity for Neil was talking to others. He volunteered to work at bingo fundraisers because he loved joking and interacting with the players and the other volunteers.
On holidays, he was the guy chatting to others at the pool side. When on a family trip to Costa Rica, he sat up front in the van so he could talk to the driver.
At family reunions, Neil was the person who talked to extended family members, who may not have known anyone else, and made them feel part of the group. He had a way of joking with people that entertained but did not offend.
Neil knew a lot about many different topics. In 1999, in a New Year’s Eve time capsule, he wrote that his favourite pastime was reading the encyclopedia.
Neil worked as a marketer of natural gas liquids for Petro-Canada in Calgary and in Sarnia, Ont. He spent a good part of his day on the phone talking with people across Canada and the United States.
He was able to develop phone friendships and looked forward to these conversations as part of his working day.
When he travelled for work he enjoyed meeting the person behind the voice.
One day he took a phone call from a government worker for his daughter, who was not home. When the man called back, he told Neil’s daughter he’d had a wonderful conversation with her dad that had made his day.
Neil was 6 when his family immigrated to Canada from England.
They travelled by ship to Halifax, then hopped on a train to Red Deer, Alta.
In Grade 11 social studies, Neil met Wendy Becker. They had their first date on Halloween night 35 years ago.
Neil earned a diploma in surveying from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton, then a degree from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
He and Wendy married in 1985 and had a one-year honeymoon while Neil finished his final year of university. The U.S. exchange rate was brutal, so they saved money by not having a phone or television.
After university, Neil and Wendy went to the Netherlands, bought a pumpkin-orange Lada and camped around Europe, sleeping on blue foamies and eating beans out of a can, for six months.
As a family, they travelled on many trips making wonderful memories.
Neil was a brain-tumour survivor for eight years. He had three craniotomies, months of chemotherapy and radiation, and through it all was an example to others with his optimism and good cheer.
He will be missed by his family and everyone who was entertained by his stories.
Wendy Burton is Neil’s wife.
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