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Darrell G. Burkholder Jr., 49, of Lockport, who taught at Reszel Middle School in North Tonawanda for 26 years despite a lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis, died Friday (Jan. 28, 2000) in University of Pittsburgh Medical Center while waiting for a lung transplant.

Born in the City of Tonawanda, he graduated from Tonawanda High School in 1968 and earned a bachelor of science degree in biology from Buffalo State College in 1972.

Burkholder was proud to be a scientist and instilled his passion in his students at Reszel Middle School.

"He taught more than just the students -- he taught the teachers," said Dolores "Dee" Benson, a fellow science teacher. "He was a mentor to all of us."

Benson said he was always coming up with ideas on how the science department could meet the state standards. "He had more energy than all of us put together."

He retired in 1998.

Burkholder was a popular wrestling coach in the North Tonawanda and Starpoint school districts for 11 years.

"It was a push for him, but that's the way he lived his life," said his brother, Thomas of North Tonawanda. "He did things that most people would have thought impossible for a person with cystic fibrosis."

Burkholder was a passionate naturalist who loved animals. He raised tropical fish, gardened and was an avid amateur geologist. He built a large pond in his back yard and stocked it with aquatic plants and fish, his brother said.

Burkholder also was instrumental in building a courtyard of flowers and shrubbery in the Reszel school yard, Benson said.

"He lived what he taught. He was very active in anything to do with the environment," Benson said.

He was a member of the Buffalo Audubon Society, Buffalo Geological Society and the Niagara Frontier Koi and Pond Club.

"He was a devoted husband and an exceptional man," said his brother. "He had a great love of life and a tremendous sense of humor."

Burkholder said his brother lived almost twice as long as most people with cystic fibrosis. Another brother, Bruce, died of the disease in 1984 at the age of 31.

Darrell Burkholder had been waiting in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for a lung transplant since November.

In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife of 21 years, the former Suzanne M. Bialkowski of Lockport.

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Grove Street Christian Church, 85 Grove St., City of Tonawanda.

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