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Son of Delbert and Victoria Burdan Orvil Burdan was born Feb. 5, 1919, in Bertha, Mo., down on Bryant Creek. He died Aug. 13, 2006, in Talisay, Cebu, Philippines, after a long illness. He was the son of Delbert and Victoria Burdan. Orvil had four older sisters, Cleo, Annie, Opal, and Alta, and one twin brother, Norvil. Orvil graduated from Ava High School in 1939.
Orvil joined the Navy on Sept. 27, 1939. He was on the West Virginia which sank at Pearl Harbor and was also at the Battle of Midway. Orvil served in the Atlantic, hunting German submarines and escorting convoys to England, and ended World War II in Tokyo Bay, where he witnessed (via “long glass”) the Japanese surrender to MacArthur.
Orvil finished the war as a chief petty officer. Orvil was also present at Operation Crossroads, the first postwar atomic tests which took place in the Bikini Atoll.
After the war, Orvil owned a couple of businesses in California and a small farm in Missouri, but he was never happy with civilian life. He went back to sea, entering Military Sealift Command in 1950, serving almost immediately during the Korean War. Orvil continued to travel throughout the world: Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. He recalled among his happiest days being stationed in Japan in the 1950s.
Orvil rose through the ranks and was promoted to captain in the early 1960s. At this point, he was legally licensed to skipper a ship of any size, anywhere in the world. His license read in part: “Any Tonnage, Any Sea.” He spent a lot of time in Viet Nam from 1963-1973. Primary among his duties in Viet Nam was transportation of soldiers and ammunition, frequently along the Mekong Delta.
During his years in Viet Nam, he received two commendations from the Korean Army for transporting troops in dangerous situations. During the period 1965-1966, Orvil was captain of a ship which picked up one of the astronauts returning on a Gemini mission. The Gemini program preceded the Apollo program, and had the goal of training astronauts to fly a spacecraft in orbit. Orvil retired from MSTS (Military Sealift Transport Service, formerly Military Sealift Command) in 1974.
Orvil spent the last 32 years living primarily in the Philippines, which he had visited throughout his military service, and always loved. His nephew, Perry Pool, spent a lot of time with Orvil in the Philippines, as did Roger, Jeff, and David Pool. Orvil spent summers during the mid-1970s with his daughters, Vicky and Sara, in Missouri, later living with his daughters in San Francisco, and then living in Reno, Nev., with his last wife, Emelyn. After that, he returned to the USA approximately once a year.
Orvil was married three times, to Juanita Coats, Dr. Barbara Rosine (mother of daughters Vicky and Sara), and Emelyn Rosalia.
Orvil is survived by his two daughters and three grandchildren, Sean, Heather, and Paige Gordon, children of daughter, Sara and son-in-law Scott Gordon. Orvil is also survived by one sister, Alta Shanks, and many nieces and nephews.
The only service will be visitation at Clinkingbeard Funeral Home, on Sunday, Sept. 10, at 1 p.m. Military services and burial of the cremains will follow in the Ava Cemetery.
Perry and Roger Pool were in the Philippines at the time of Orvil’s death. There were extensive celebrations in honor of Orvil’s life in the Philippines, and he will be much missed by the people of Talisay, who knew him only as “The Captain.” Orvil had helped many people in the local community over the years.