Voice of Armwood High football, baseball dies after a long fight against cancer

SEFFNER – At the beginning of each week, Armwood High football coach Evan Davis walks the halls of the school feeling good at the start of his day, passing by the rooms where he started as a student in 2000 and returned as a teacher in 2009.

On Monday, he had to find his way through the misty eyes.

He stopped in front of classroom 373 and returned to the first day of school in August 2001. He said he could hear the voice of his mentor, Bruce Burnham.

“From that first moment I heard him talk about being caught,” Davis said. “He was center stage. He had the voice and the charisma. He was the actor who led the play. He was prepared and committed, and everyone in the class was busy with him. I told him once (in this room) that, “I’ll come back here someday and take care of teaching your history lessons (a statement that has become the truth).” … He will be missed by many former students and teachers, by all those who had the honor of knowing him ”.

Burnham, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, died Saturday with his high school sweetheart and 50-year-old wife, Pam, nearby. He was 68 years old.

In many ways it is a perceived loss in the relative tranquility he left behind: from his lessons in world history and Vietnam history to the football and baseball press stands, where Burnham was fondly known as “The Voice of the Hawks” .

Related: Meet Voice of the Hawks and Armwood super fan Bruce Burnham

For 21 years starting in 1998 he was a fixture behind the Armwood mic, calling games as he announced his carefully crafted trivia contests to the crowd, ending with a restaurant gift card for winners and his signature saying, ” More importantly, I’m going to make you famous in the Seffner metropolitan area when I announce your name from the press box. “

For 13 of those years, one of his best friends, Tony Pirotta, was by his side in the press box and taught across the aisle during the school day. Before the games, Pirotta and Burnham shared a pre-game meal at Beef O ‘Brady’s venue.

“He was like a second father to me,” said Pirotta, who now teaches at the new Sumner High, where he calls football games like Burnham. “Just being with him has made me a better teacher and a better person, and I know many of his students and fellow teachers will say the same thing. I called him the “Mayor of Armwood” because he was always out shaking hands and kissing the children of the community, alumni and friends and so many others. I don’t think you could find anyone who has had a bad word to say about him. He was that kind of guy. “

Bruce Burnham was the prom king of King High of 1970 and his date was the future Mrs. Pam Burnham, who has been married to Bruce for 50 years. [ Courtesy of the Burnham family ]

She also deeply appreciated Armwood, a sentiment she expressed in a 2017 interview after beating cancer. Sitting in his press box, fighting back tears, Burnham said you need to understand “that coming to this press box helped save my life.”

He was looking forward to Friday nights. They gave him the energy to fight off the radiation and chemotherapy that left him ragged after 40 treatments in three months. And those treatments followed a 10-hour-month surgery before they removed parts of his stomach, liver, gallbladder, and pancreas, where a tumor the size of a walnut had grown.

In the 2017 interview, he paused to look at the soccer field, then thought back to 1985 when he sat in front of a desk of Armwood principal Lyle Flagg. He told Flagg he needed a job as a teacher because he felt teaching was his calling.

Burnham said he believed the teaching would also help him recover from the PTSD, which plagued him for “10 lost years” after the brutal fighting in Vietnam.

Flagg replied that there was a hiring freeze and Burnham said it was fine, but that he had nine more meetings scheduled with different principals that day.

As Burnham pulled into the parking lot, Flagg’s voice stopped him abruptly. Extending his hand, Flagg said, “I have a feeling about you. All I can give you right now is a handshake and a promise that you’ll have a job in three weeks. “

Burnham, who said he has such strong feelings for Flagg, canceled his other nine interviews. Three weeks later he began teaching history in Armwood, where he spent the next 30 years until his retirement in 2015. Along the way he created a Vietnam history course in 1997, then began announcing every baseball game since 1998. and every football match since 2002.

After retiring from teaching, “The Voice of the Hawks” continued battling cancer and calling games, until he was finally overwhelmed before the 2020 season.

Arrangements for the commemoration and funeral were still being worked out. Davis said he was looking to get a special serve at Armwood’s Lyle Flagg Stadium, and Pirotta said there was a movement to get the press box called the “Bruce Burnham Press Box”.

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About Myra R.

Myra R.

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