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85-year-old ‘Fire Starter’ an inspiration

Burton ‘one of the most loyal, hard working, kindest people around’

Howard Burton, Morris Hospital’s Fire Starter of the Month, is know for his dedication... and his ever-present smile.
Howard Burton, Morris Hospital’s Fire Starter of the Month, is know for his dedication... and his ever-present smile.

When somebody has good work ethic, it’s usually because it’s an inherent part of who they are.

That’s the case with Howard Burton, an associate in the Environmental Services department at Morris Hospital.

At the age of 85, Burton was honored as the Fire Starter of the Month for being one of the most loyal, hard working, kindest people around.

“Howard is a very dedicated team member,” says Kevin Bernard, director of Environmental Services at Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers. “He is constantly smiling and always willing to lend a hand wherever needed.”

A World War II veteran, Burton had already put in 35 years as a farmer and 16 years as a drill operator at Caterpillar when he came to Morris Hospital in 1987.

For the past 26 years, he has faithfully made the 60-mile round trip commute from his home in Essex to his full-time job on the afternoon shift at Morris Hospital.

That’s after spending the morning tending to his 80 acres of farmland.

On top of all that, Burton even volunteers for overtime at the hospital when extra help is needed.

Without a doubt, Burton’s smile is his No. 1 trademark around the hallways of Morris Hospital. That smile made a positive impact on co-worker Randy Keifling the very first time he met Burton.

“Howard does whatever is asked of him, with a smile, and to the best of his ability without complaining. He is always here when the department needs him,” says Keifling.

“In my eyes, Howard has made me proud to be a Morris Hospital Environmental Services team player.”

There are a number of things that inspire Burton in his work. He enjoys the people he works with and has a reputation for getting along with everyone. He says when he does something, he takes pride in seeing what he’s able to accomplish.

“I’ve done just about everything here, including scrubbing and waxing floors,” says Burton. “I like to see a floor shine.”

Burton says one of the keys to his active lifestyle and good health is getting a good night’s sleep.

Plus, he has the support of a large family, including his wife of 65 years, Helen, and their four sons, nine grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

In early civilizations, fire starters were the individuals who had the important job of keeping the flame alive.

As Fire Starter of the Month, Burton received a Grundy County Chamber of Commerce gift certificate, a special “Fire Starter” lapel pin, and a designated parking spot for the month.

Morris Hospital & Healthcare Centers is one of the largest employers in Grundy County with over 960 employees.  

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