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The Telegram
  • Seymour was hard-working, devoted husband and father

  • Many area residents remember Burton T. Seymour as the man who died in the 1963 fire at Ilion High School. The high school auditorium is named for him and members of the Ilion Fire Department plan to gather Sunday at noon at the station in his honor.

    Kathy Fuhrer has other memories though. Burt Seymour was her father and she was 19, the second oldest of six Seymour children, when he died.

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  • Many area residents remember Burton T. Seymour as the man who died in the 1963 fire at Ilion High School. The high school auditorium is named for him and members of the Ilion Fire Department plan to gather Sunday at noon at the station in his honor.
    Kathy Fuhrer has other memories though. Burt Seymour was her father and she was 19, the second oldest of six Seymour children, when he died.
    “He was a great guy, a great father, he was very attentive all the time and very hard working,” she said. “Life was so simple then. Every single Sunday we’d take a ride in the car. Dad would always cook breakfast on Sunday if he wasn’t at the firehouse. He always called my mom ‘Shrimp.’ That was his nickname for her.”
    Fuhrer remembers that when Seymour worked part-time at Lou’s Dairy Isle in Mohawk, she and the other children would wait eagerly for him to come home. “They let him bring home any ice cream they had made up that they hadn’t sold.”
    At Christmas, her father was always the one to put the lights on the tree. “They had to be just perfect,” Fuhrer recalled. “We had bubble lights and we’d have a contest to find which light started bubbling first.”
    Seymour worked part-time for Robinson Brothers in Mohawk and was starting his own washing machine business in 1963, Fuhrer recalled. He had just purchased a truck and had arranged for store space on Otsego Street.
    The night of the fire, Burt Seymour was not on duty. Fuhrer remembers they had watched an episode of Bonanza on television that night and gone to bed. When the alarm sounded, though, her father responded.
    She remembers going to the fire — they lived only a couple of blocks away — and when they saw an ambulance leaving the scene, her mother said, “It’s your father, I know it is.”
    They hurried home and had just made it to the front porch when they received the call from the doctor. Burt Seymour was dead at the age of 42.
    “The whole community was great to us,” said Fuhrer. “Applegate Funeral Home was so great to us. We had calling hours right there in our house for four days. The firemen were great. They had somebody there by casket 24 hours a day for all four days.”
    She added, “My mom was pretty strong too. She had six kids and had always been a stay-at home mom. She went to MDS (Mohawk Data Sciences) and worked there, probably a year later.” The Seymour children ranged in age from 5 to 20.
    “One of the hardest things was that they never solved the problem,” said Fuhrer. While authorities said the fire was caused by arson, no arrests were made.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The hurt never goes away,” said Fuhrer. “It doesn’t seem like it was 50 years ago. It seems like it was yesterday.”
    The Seymour family still has a connection to the Ilion Fire Department.
    “My wife’s grandfather was Burton Seymour,” said Ilion Firefighter Jon Boucher. He said the department is planning a ceremony to honor the 50th anniversary of the fire and of Seymour’s death Sunday at noon at the firehouse and he is a member of the organizing committee.
    “It started as a retirees’ breakfast,” he said. “The retirees are invited back and have a chance to meet the new guys.”
    Boucher said committee members have been in touch with some of the men who worked at the fire station at the time Seymour was there. One of the men recalled Seymour’s calm and quiet nature that Seymour always took pride in wearing his uniform just right. “At that time they wore neckties and a lot of the firemen would take theirs off, but he’d always keep his on,” Boucher said.
    The current Ilion firefighters continue to remember Seymour. “His picture is hung at the station and we always keep a light on it,” he said.
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