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Published: Sunday, 10/23/2011

Howard Burkert, 1941-2011: Photographer captured proms, nature


Howard Burkert, a photographer whose subjects included high school seniors and athletic contests and the soaring eagles and lumbering bears of Alaska, died of cancer Friday in his Monclova Township home. He was 70.

Over the course of 3 1/2 years he underwent surgery, chemotherapy, clinical trials, and radiation.

"He did everything he could," his daughter, Virginia, said. "One of the really big reasons [was] my brother had a child, and he wanted to get to know her," his daughter said.

That granddaughter, Katie Burkert, is 2 1/2.

He and his wife, Darlene, worked together in their photography business. From the 1970s into the early 2000s, he took high school class, faculty, and staff photos and senior portraits and shot proms, pep assemblies, and every sport. She made the appointments and handled billing. Big studios dominated the field, yet Mr. Burkert was photographer for Swanton, Springfield, and Anthony Wayne districts.

"It's unheard of for a little mom-and-pop to get contracts for school photography," his wife said.

He was strong and rugged and comfortable in nature, his wife said. For decades, he longed to explore Alaska. At 62, encouraged by his wife, he went. He brought back majestic images captured by waking at 4 a.m. and waiting; by scouting locations until sunset and waiting.

"He had all the patience in the world," his wife said. "He had the eye for it, and the technical skills. If he got a camera, when I sat around reading novels, he read the manuals until he knew the equipment in and out."

His work was shown in exhibits. He and his wife sold his nature photos at art shows around northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

He was born Feb. 11, 1941, on Salisbury Road to Elouise and Leonard Burkert. Except for three years in the Air Force spent in Florida, he always lived nearby.

"He probably moved 150 feet in 70 years," his wife said.

He attended Anthony Wayne High School. He was a welder for the former Teledyne CAE plant in Toledo. During periodic layoffs, he was a bricklayer and a mechanic. Early retirement from Teledyne allowed him to concentrate on photo work.

"The photography was where he shined," his wife said.

He studied with noted photographer Jay Stock, and he had a master's degree in photography from the Professional Photographers of America.

Surviving are his wife, Darlene, whom he married Dec. 31, 1963; daughter, Virginia Ulch; son, Howard Burkert, Jr.; sister, Donna Grothaus, and three grandchildren.

An open house memorial will be from 2-5 p.m. Saturday in the Monclova Community Center.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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