Jan. 7, 1941 – Aug. 26, 2019
Clyde L. Burmaster, one of the longest-serving members of the Niagara County Legislature and its chairman in 2000, 2001 and 2007, died Monday in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital, Amherst, after a long illness. He was 78.
When he wasn't the chairman, Mr. Burmaster, a Ransomville Republican, was virtually the permanent vice chairman of the Legislature. He first served in that role in 1998 and held it until his death, except for his time as chairman and two years when the Democrats had a majority.
He was in his 26th year in the Legislature at the time of his death and was planning to run again this fall.
In a 2011 interview, Mr. Burmaster declared, "I don't have any plans to retire until I'm 80."
He didn't quite make it.
"I'm very saddened by his death. He was a colleague of mine for 26 years," said Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls.
"He was a very respected, honest politician. He was always a stand-up guy with me," Virtuoso said.
"Clyde's passing leaves a painful hole in the heart of his family, friends and colleagues," said Lee Simonson, a former Legislature chairman.
"Anyone who had the honor of serving with him will attest he was a shining symbol of what public service is all about. He was the definition of independence, integrity and faith," Simonson said. "Our community believed in Clyde, but more importantly, Clyde believed in us."
Current Legislature Chairman W. Keith McNall was assigned Burmaster as a deskmate when he joined the Legislature.
"He turned out to be a good friend. He had an opinion on things you'd always like to hear. He used common sense and good judgment and fair play," McNall said.
Mr. Burmaster served as chairman of several Legislature committees, including the Public Works Committee and the Niagara Tobacco Asset Securitization Corp.
In 2005, he was one of the driving forces in persuading the Legislature to allocate annual funding to retain an attorney to fight CWM Chemical Services' plans for an expansion in his district. That commitment remains in effect today, as the future of the company's new landfill remains in doubt.
Mr. Burmaster also agitated for investigation of an alleged cancer cluster in his home hamlet of Ransomville. In 2014, he said at a public meeting that he was a cancer survivor.
He was the first Legislature chairman to preside from the corner office in the Courthouse, which until 2000 had been the domain of the Legislature clerk, and spearheaded the late 1990s redecoration of the Legislature Chambers, in which old green metal desks were replaced by wood desks made of cherry.
"I have a lot of pride in this county. I tried to restore dignity to those chambers," Mr. Burmaster said in 2007.
He was born in Lewiston and graduated from Wilson Central High School.
Mr. Burmaster was an infantry sergeant in the Army during the Vietnam era, stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash.
Before entering politics, Mr. Burmaster worked as a private investigator for 32 years, and retired as the director of investigations for Equifax.
In the community, Mr. Burmaster served at various times as president of the Niagara Community Action Program, the Ransomville Free Library board, the North Ridge Cemetery Association and the Ransomville Volunteer Fire Company.
He also was a member of the O. Leo Curtis Post 830, American Legion, in Ransomville and the Old Fort Niagara Association. He served on the board of directors for the Festival of Lights and served as chairman of the board for the Ransomville Methodist Church.
Mr. Burmaster was an avid golfer, and enjoyed sports cars and collecting Civil War memorabilia.
Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Suzanne; a brother, John; three sons, Chris, Justin Gamble and Shane Gamble; two daughters Michelle Gamble and Robin Jenneveve; and eight grandchildren.
Calling hours are 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Hardison Funeral Home, 3648 Ransomville Road, Ransomville, where services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday.