This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of Promise magazine.
Laurel Burkhardt Luff and Paul Luff at the Summa Health System — St. Thomas Campus
“All things to all men.” So reads the verse from 1 Corinthians 9:22 that once graced a plaque at St. Thomas Hospital honoring the generosity and dedication of Mr. and Mrs. William G. Burkhardt. William “Bill” Burkhardt served on the St. Thomas board from 1950 to 1965 and then as an honorary member until his death in 1972.
Many decades later, Bill and Louise Burkhardt are being honored again through a generous gift in their memory from their granddaughter, Laurel Burkhardt Luff, and her husband, Paul Luff. When the plaque was given to them in 2018, it came with a flood of memories.
“My grandfather was my shining star,” said Laurel. She spoke warmly of weekly visits as a child to see him in his downtown Akron office, followed by treats at Woolworth’s.
“He loved downtown Akron,” she said. “He’d stroll around with his cane and top hat with my hand in his. I felt like a princess. He was my best friend.”
With the loving support of his wife, Louise, Bill Burkhardt did indeed strive to be all things to all people throughout his lifetime, said Laurel. He served his church, his city and his country as well as the hospital that cared for his family.
The grandson of German immigrants, Bill Burkhardt was only 11 when his father died. A devout Catholic, he went on to graduate from Notre Dame University, which named him Man of the Year in 1958. During World War II, he served as an officer in the U.S. Navy on an attack transport ship that took part in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Personal tragedy struck shortly after when his 4-year-old daughter, Mary, died suddenly.
“I think that in some way, years later, I became that little girl he had lost,” said Laurel. “He was so good to me. Despite everything he had been through, he lived a life of service to St. Thomas and the Akron community. I was only 12 when he passed away at 58 from a heart condition that is treatable today,” Laurel said. “Paul and I wanted to carry on his legacy of service.”
The gift from Laurel and Paul will support cardiovascular care, in memory of Bill Burkhardt, and Summa Health Cancer Institute, in memory of Louise Burkhardt, who died of cancer. Motivated by the life of service lived by her grandfather, Laurel and Paul both serve on the Summa Health Seniors Institute Leadership Council.
“He was my inspiration,” Laurel said. “He was all things to me, too.”
For more information about supporting Summa Health, contact Barbara Boyce at 330.375.6356 or email@example.com.