Posted by: dharmabeachbum | January 18, 2013

A man of great character passes away

billBill Burgess truly made the world a better place. He’s gone now, passing away Jan. 6. He was 68.

My friend, a native New Yorker, was known as the mayor of our neighborhood, holding meetings in front of Eastwood Arms at the corner of Frontage Road and 65th Ave. His podium was a patio table, The Plastic Altar, where Bill would share his vast wisdom with the locals.

It seemed like everyone knew the man. The driver of roughly every third car to pass The Plastic Altar would beep their horn or wave to Bill.

I first met him and his beautiful, longtime wife, Maxine, about nine years ago, after they moved to Myrtle Beach from Kingstree to be closer to the hotel at which they worked. Bill might have been the mayor, but it was Maxine who slammed the gavel when her husband started to get loud. The loving couple shared everything they had with those of us who were lucky enough to know them.

Bill was humble, dignified, respectful and so damn cool. He rarely mentioned that he was signed by Gene Shue to play for the Washington Bullets, and he didn’t talk too much about sharing basketball courts in greater New York City with the likes of Julius “Dr. J” Erving and Connie Hawkins. Like all human beings, Bill wasn’t perfect; his shot at playing in the NBA ended when he was befallen by personal demons.

He had recovered by the time I had the good fortune of meeting him. I can still see him proudly standing by his garden, laughing at the irony. “Look at me. A city boy turned farmer.”

When Bill was still well, he walked nearly every morning to the local convenience store. I swear, y’all. He made walking a spectator sport. At six-feet-six-inches tall and with perfect posture, he moved with the grace of a gazelle. I asked him a few times if he was afraid to traverse the neighborhood in the darkness of pre-dawn.

“Shi-it. I’m a gansta, Robert,” he said, his green eyes twinkling. “Nobody’s going to mess with me.”

Bill was both shocked and happy to have lived long enough to see our great nation elect its first black president. He sometimes talked of the racism he had encountered in his lifetime. He did so with no bitterness. But he told me that it had taught him restraint.

Once, in a social setting, the redneck, oafish brother of one of the party’s hosts made an off-color remark to Bill. Bill and I were sitting on a couch and the oaf had just arrived. I flinched and was about to send the guy to the hospital, but Bill reached over and gently put his hand around my knee.

“It’s okay, Robert,” he said quietly. “I’ll handle it.”

Bill never rose from the couch. He used words to put the oaf in his place, commenting about the guy’s camouflage outfit and the way his enormous belly protruded from beneath his shirt. I laughed like hell. In retrospect, I realize that my beloved friend taught me yet another lesson that night.

Lord, I could write a book about the character of Bill Burgess. The problem with that concept is that one book wouldn’t have been enough for me to express my admiration for him. Nor do I have the eloquence to properly do so. Bill will live forever in my heart and in my thoughts. I still talk to him sometimes, and I know if there is a God in heaven that he is listening. He listened so well. He conversed so well.

Bill was such a good man.



  1. dude you need a life

    • I’m fine with the life I have, thanks.

    • Interesting that you would leave that comment under the above blog. It makes me wonder if the destructive seeds of racism have been sewed into your character (or lack there of), double d.

    • dude (dumb dumb) shut the fuck up, you’re the one whose a spastic little shit who has nothing better to do with his life/time. and by all means do yourself and everyone else a favor and put the shotgun barrel in your mouth and pull the trigger.

  2. It’s people like him that make life worth living. I’m sorry for your loss.

    • Thanks, Cindy. He was so humble, yet always ready, if asked, to give advice. I learned so much from him. So many great memories. I have numerous stories about Bill that are locked away on my old computer’s damaged hard drive. I wish I would have had them to scan. Bill would have laughed at my blubbering as I wrote about him, then he would have told me that death is part of life. That everything will be okay.

  3. Really liked what you had to say in your post, A man of great character passes away Dharma Beach Bum, thanks for the good read!
    — Bev

    • Thanks, Bev. Words don’t do Billy justice. He was a remarkable person.

  4. I would like to thank for writing such nice things about my uncle. He truly was a great guy and things that you wrote sound just like him. My aunt Maxine truly appreciates this thank you

    • Miss Tasha, I recall meeting you. Hope you are well. It was an honor writing about Billy. Very difficult also. I really couldn’t keep from tearing up. I will always have all the respect in the world for Bill and Maxine. And for your family. Also, the photo I used of Bill was the only one I had on my computer (no scanner). I could easily replace it if y’all prefer. My e-mail is
      Peace, Rob H.

  5. I grew up too with Bill in NY,,, Yes, he’s all that !!! I, along with many, many of his old friends miss him much,,, great story and tribute…

    • Thanks much, Peter. Bill and I talked about New York a lot because New York City is my favorite city in the world (Dr. J and Walt “Clyde” Frazier my favorite roundballers). Bill gave me so much insight into NYC and Long Island. He also told me stories about how they used to take Julius’ shoes from him on the playground. Funny stuff. Even now tears are welling in my eyes, but I know Bill is in heaven. May God be with you and your friends (and me) as we all grieve.

  6. Thanks for writing this. My father was a good man. He convinced my mom to name me after him even though I was a girl. To no him was to love him. I miss him so much.

    • My God! I remember Bill telling me that a couple of times. Our tightly knit group spent so much time together. Bill spoke of all of his family with such love. With such high regard. I miss your father (and Lora) terribly. He will always be among my best friends. Here are a few oddities, maybe fate. Another one of my best friends since moving to MB, Joe Pocorobba, passed away Jan. 6 in 2006. My birthday is Jan. 10. There were four people in our circle of friends that had b-days on the tenth. On Dec. 10th I’ll be toasting your father. Bill, to me. God bless you.

  7. This is Jeanette, Billy’s baby sister ! My brother was captured honorably in this article and I thank you for the tears I shed reading and remembering my Big Bruda ! Thank you and God bless you !!!

    • G’day, Miss Jeanette. I don’t believe we ever met. I met your wonderful father and your brothers Dennis, David and Jusef (sp.?) I don’t recall meeting your mother, and I never met your brother from the left coast. I have so much respect for your whole family. So many memories. Ask Dennis about the beachfront mansion we partied in. After 14+ years of living here, it’s the only one I’ve been in. Funny story. Billy always referred to Jusef as Joe at the Plastic Altar. Dennis, David and Jusef were in town. In conversation, I referred to Jusef as Joe. Jusef nicely corrected me. Billy and I laughed about it later. He always made me laugh. I know your father and David and all your late family members are in heaven. God bless YOU.

  8. I am grateful to have known Billy Burgess and looked up to him as my mentor on the Campbell Park basketball court. I had a summer job there around 1975 and worked with Dennis Burgess. I saw Dennis this past August at the Hempstead Legends game, but was unaware of Billy’s passing. Although Billy was 10 years older than me, he took me under his wing and passed on his basketball knowledge. He used to call me “Young Buck”, and would play me one on one games. I can still hear his deep bellowing laughter when he would block my shot or make a playground move on me. He definitely had game even after his playing days were over. Billy would tell me stories about playing against Connie Hawkins in Brooklyn and also Julius Erving. The most impact lesson I learned from Billy on the court was how to glide in the air when I attacked the basket. He made me believe I could fly and it changed my game forever. Whenever I visit Hempstead, NY, I always drive by Campbell Park, which I call “The Proving Grounds”, and just stop the car to reflect. Thank you for sharing this post.

    • Love it. Love it. And you are most welcome. Thank you for sharing this with me, fellow Edwin (my middle name). I used to play b-ball every day for years. Only 5’11” and slow-footed, though. Dr. J and “Clyde” Frazier were my two favorites. I grew up in central PA and watched Knicks and Nets all the time on WOR. That’s why I loved Bill telling me about Hempstead (Uniondale Coliseum) and Brooklyn. NYC forever. That deep bellowing laughter. How I miss it. Amazing man. He will always be in our hearts. In our minds. Still grieving, but your story and all of them here are helping. Thanks.

  9. I’m Uncle Bill’s oldest nephew, Keith..I’m Jimmy’s son. This was a phenomenal article about my Uncle..I always referred to him as a “gentle giant” He had a lot of wit, a lot of charm, used words like art and had a plethora of wisdom. He stood head and shoulders amongst his peers and was the apple of my Nana’s eyes(they both had the same color eyes) Him and my Dad ran the hood in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn’s Marcy Projects and was well respected when moving to Hempstead. Thank you for capturing the essence of my Uncle…Things you wrote about confirmed the DNA which waxes warm in my veins. God bless you, sir!!!

    • Wow! No, thank you kind sir for the compliments and thank you even more for sharing these memories. At some point, I want to collect all these stories and put them with the stories that I have locked away about your Uncle on a fried computer drive. You don’t know how much these stories are helping me with my grieving. Now I’m POSITIVE Bill is up there and helping guide me. I don’t know how he’s finding the time ’cause I’m CERTAIN he’s up there guiding you and the rest of your beautiful family. But that’s Bill. He found a way to find that time to help others, didn’t he? Your uncle was simply one of the finest men I’ve EVER had the pleasure of meeting. You must be a writer or philosopher. Your message is so well written, as are most here. You mentioned Hempstead. I’m sitting here right now, you have my word man to man, in an old-school 1975-76 New Jersey Nets t-shirt. Complete with burn hole in it. A burn hole left by ashes not from the legal kind of “cigarette.” Laughing out loud. Bill was always laughing and making me laugh. God bless you!

  10. I am Bill’s oldest daughter Trevice. He was a wonderful, thought-provoking and wise man. I am blessed to have his blood running through my veins. Thank you for your beautiful narration of my father’s life. I remember one day saying “what you doing in a garden daddy”. His response to me was simply “In Rome you do what the Romans do”! He was a trip! I miss him and I thank you for your kind words and memories. We all lost a beautiful soul that day on January 6th. May you continue to hold his memory alive in your heart. I certainly will!

    • Hey Miss Trevice. My most sincere apologies. I read your comment nearly two weeks ago and I remember replying. I guess I just went site surfin’ without saving my own reply. You are most certainly blessed to share your father’s blood. He was something else. We had so much fun together. He said, “In Rome you do what the Romans do,” to me a couple of times. Lord, I miss him. Every day. I can’t imagine how you and your family feel, ’cause I’m still shook, but I know he takes the time to guide me sometimes. I still hear him, “Robert, you can’t solve the world’s problems.” Shaking my head wistfully just thinking about him. But I promise you that I will never let his memory go. We all lost a piece of us that day. You and yours much more so than me. God bless you!”

  11. I am Bill’s oldest daughter Trevice. He was a kind, gentle and wise man that always had an appropriate response. I thank you for your wonderful narration of my father’s life. I remember when he moved to South Carolina and we would talk about his garden. I said “Daddy, what are YOU doing with a garden?” He simply replied “In Rome you do as the Romans do”! He was a trip! We lost a beautiful soul on January 6th, 2013. Thank you for memorializing him so beautifully. May we forever keep his memory alive in our hearts…I know I certainly will… Thanks again…

    • Thank you for your kind words, Miss Trevice. Your wonderful father will be with me till it’s my turn to shuffle off this mortal coil. Hopefully I’ll visit with him then, too. Bill and I spread the dirt out for that garden after having someone else truck it in. He was so proud of his plants and we sat right next to the garden at what we called The Plastic Altar. We sat around that table so many nights and talked about everything under the sun (and moon). The table was right near a pine tree and squirrels would knock pine cones off of it. Everyone else called me Rob, but Bill always called me Robert. One night he said, “Robert, those squirrels are throwing pine cones at you.” I can still hear him laughing about it. Love Maxine to this day, too. May we all find peace in this most trying of times.

  12. Hi dharmabeachbum, Thank you for liking ‘ Turning The Key!’ Best Wishes, The Foureyed Poet.

    • It was my pleasure, poet, and a fine one you are. I’m humbled that a fine person like yourself from the UK would read my stuff. I have a lot of respect for the UK. Our countries have been allies in both war and peace for a long time — that little tiff between us the the latter 1700s and in 1812 was like a son quarreling with his mother, save for the poor souls who lost their lives in them. I have yet to see most of the US, but someday I hope to make it to the UK and spend a fortnight visiting both historical and mystical places. The United Kingdom is third on my view list behind only the US and Canada. I’ll be back to visit your site very soon. I’m visiting my fellow WordPress bloggers when I can, but I’ve been busy with DBB and with formatting a new blog designed to attract anyone with an opinion, photo or memory of the Grand Strand/Myrtle Beach. I can also learn from people like you. I’m passionate about nature and about writing, but I’m just now learning the tricks of the blogging trade. Getting serious about it. Anyway, I’ll cut this chapter short, but can’t wait to start yet another when I come a callin’ at your place. I’m too literal to do much poetry, but I have dabbled in it some long ago. Peace, my friend.

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