From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 19 - August 4, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online


Clifford Edwin Johnson

Clifford E. Johnson passed away Wednesday, July 7, 2005, at the Sublette Center in Pinedale. He was 89 years old.

Clifford was born on April 7, 1916, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the son of Morris and Anna Peterson. He married Ruth Crowley on Dec. 17, 1938, in Los Angeles, Calif. Clifford served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and owned and operated an auto repair garage during most of his life.

He was preceded in death by his wife and parents.

He is survived by one son, Ronald "Rocky" Johnson of Pinedale, and two granddaughters, Denise Benson of Dana Point, Calif., and Lisa Smith of Long Beach, Calif.

Cremation has taken place under the direction of Hudson's Funeral Home.

Doris and Buzz Burzlander

"To preserve and protect" is the phrase that most clearly represents the efforts of Doris and Buzz Burzlander throughout their lives. As public figures, church leaders, political activists, private business owners, lifelong learners and proud parents and grandparents, the many roles the Burzlanders chose as Sublette County citizens influenced the political and environmental landscapes in this area of Wyoming, and their accomplishments will be acknowledged for many years to come.

Both died last week in a car accident south of Pinedale; Doris, 84, and Buzz, 87, had celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary in mid-July.

Remaining active throughout their lives, both Burzlanders worked hard to leave a legacy of the life they had been able to enjoy. Buzz continued to write letters to congressmen, editors and friends about political and environmental issues on both the national and local scene, while Doris continued to speak out on issues affecting the quality of life in Sublette County.

Buzz's cataract surgery had sharpened his eyesight and wit, according to friends; he told one, in her 80s, that with his restored eyesight he was surprised to see that she had wrinkles.

Meanwhile, Doris continued to ask public officials difficult questions about expanding the Lakeside Lodge development and revamping the Bridger-Teton Forest Plan. As a member of the original Wagon Wheel Information Committee, she reminded gas company officials at a recent public hearing that there would have been only radioactive gas for them to take from the ground had it not been for the WWIC's work to prevent drilling with nuclear explosives in the 1970s.

More recently, in an April interview with a Casper Star Tribune reporter, Doris said that while she supported the extraction industry, she opposed drilling in some of the more environmentally fragile areas, including the Red Desert, Adobe Town and the Jack Morrow Hills area. She said she was concerned that greed over-environmental protection was causing the escalation of gas development.

The WWIC was important to both Burzlanders because it was one time when a group of people with very diverse backgrounds came together to successfully stop "an intriguing but incredibly dangerous" project, according to a close friend. At that time, the group was also supported by national environmental laws because enough individuals and organizations demanded them. The Burzlanders were very concerned those laws are not as protective of the environment today due to policies of the current Bush administration.

Remarkably, the above paragraphs contain mere snippets of the Burzlanders' beliefs and activities while they were in their 80s.

Although daughters Bonnie and Barb are certainly proud of their parents' accomplishments and activism, they want the public to know some of the more personal stories about their parents.

For example, Barb said that her dad was years ahead of the women's liberation movement. He'd always had respect for women's capabilities and believed that women could do anything ... and should. He taught his daughters how to wire and plumb, and how to use a hammer because those are important skills.

When the sisters were leaving for college, he told them, "I am giving you this gift of a college education so that you can always take care of yourselves."

Barb noted that her mom was a great role model; she could wrangle a horse and drive a tractor or truck. Childhood friends of the girls remember construction skills they saw Doris use as she remodeled and maintained various cabins at the Rivera Lodge complex. Barb also noted that her parents' political beliefs had evolved during their lives from somewhat conservative to more liberal, and they weren't shy about sharing those opinions.

Barb stressed that both Buzz and Doris strove to live their lives according to the highest principals of integrity, which wasn't always easy. They owned and operated the Rivera Lodge from 1952, which was the primary responsibility for Doris, while Buzz first worked as a mechanic and then for the Pinedale Power Plant before starting Sublette Electric.

In an oral history from June of 2002, Doris warned Buzz that if she was elected mayor of Pinedale, he needed to be prepared to lose business from their company, Sublette Electric. She said, "I am going to do what I think is right for the town and I said you are prepared because you are probably going to lose business."

Buzz said, "Well, we've been in business a long time and if our business cant stand it, we better know it now.'"

Doris noted that Buzz then went on to make a few of his own unpopular decisions while serving on the school board.

Friends remember the Burzlanders for many of their accomplishments. Jim Noble served on the school board at about the same time as Buzz; he remembers that the addition to the high school, including the auditorium, was begun during their terms, as well as the construction of the elementary school.

Jim and Buzz also worked together with the group that was establishing the wilderness designation for areas of the Bridger Teton and Shoshone National Forests. Sunny Korfanta, another school board member, admired Buzz's electrical engineering skills and recalled that Buzz would come into the old Pinedale Drug Store at night to work on the ice cream machine; he was able to keep it running for many years until the store was sold.

Sunny said on those evenings he and Buzz would discuss many topics; Sunny said that Buzz would tell you the truth if an appliance was worth fixing or not.

Sally Mackey adds that Doris told her Buzz had probably been in the homes of most Sublette County residents to either install or repair large and small electrical appliances during his years with the couple's business.

With Doris, Buzz helped keep books for White Pine Ski area; Buzz was an integral part of bringing television reception to Pinedale.

In addition to her more noted roles as mayor of Pinedale and councilman for nine years, Doris served as president of the newly-formed Pinedale Chamber of Commerce in the late 1950s and early 1960s. In fact, she and Sunny personally financed the A-frame building that housed tourist information until this summer.

At the same time, Doris was raising her daughters, operating the Rivera Lodge for the summer months and working as a substitute teacher during the school year.

Once Doris even played the piano for a production of the melodrama "The Drunkard," produced by the Lion's Club in the 1950s, adding appropriate sound effects to the drama while the villain slinked on stage and the heroine cowered in the corner. The play was directed by the famous Ida Mae Phisterer.

Childhood friends of Bonnie and Barb remember how tremendously involved Buzz and Doris were with their daughters. From Blue Birds through high school Camp Fire Girl activities, Doris and Buzz helped build the clubhouse, set up annual summer camps at New Fork Lake and made sure their daughters and club members completed many trips with Madge Funk at the helm. As Camp Fire Girls, Bonnie, Barb and friends traveled to New York City to see "The Sound of Music" and attend the national Camp Fire Girls convention. Doris and Fanny Korfanta helped Madge drive the group to Denver to see "My Fair Lady."

One summer Doris, Madge and Ethelyne Worl led a group of Camp Fire Girls on a pack trip to Clear Creek above Green River Lake; Doris and Ethelyne wrangled horses, hiked up to Slide Lake and caught enough fish to feed everyone. Another summer, Buzz and Sunny led a bicycle trip for their three daughters and their friends through Yellowstone National Park; Buzz was terribly annoyed because his camera was stolen.

Many summers Buzz and Doris set up tents at the lodge for the girls to have slumber parties; they supplied local kids and their guests with inner tubes for floating the creek.

They were both active in the Community Congregational Church/UCC Church for many years. Buzz served on the board at the time the first woman minister was hired. He also served as treasurer; Doris was active in several women's groups and worked with church youth groups.

Bonnie and Bob Birk are retired schoolteachers who remain active as volunteers for youth sports in their home of Lake Placid, N.Y. Barb (Pfaff) owns and operates the Rivera Lodge and Andy works for Jack Doyle. Trevor, the oldest grandson, travels over some of the same country in Colorado where Buzz designed and strung power lines; he is an electrical engineer and is a partner in a firm, Peak Power, based in Colorado. Travis, a petroleum engineer for Ultra in the Pinedale Anticline, took Buzz out to one of the drilling rigs recently to show him the whole operation. Kevin, a broker for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street in New York City, kept his grandparents advised on business matters.

Doris had many political discussions with all of the grandchildren, and one friend said that she gave the group at coffee an update on all of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren during the week before their deaths.

The couple is survived by daughters Bonnie Birk and Barbara Pfaff; sons-in law Bob Birk and Andy Pfaff; grandsons Trevor (Jeanise) and Travis (Chastity) Pfaff and Kevin Birk and great-grandchildren Tyler, Josie and Gracie.

The Birks live in Lake Placid, while son Kevin lives in New York City. The Pfaffs, with the exception of Trevor, all live in Sublette County with their families; Trevor and his wife live in the Denver area.

(Burzlanders' obituary was compiled from stories in the Casper Star Tribune, Pinedale Roundup, Sublette Examiner, Sublette County Journal, family and friends.)

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