Burry, Dr. Lester

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Person

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Burry, Dr. Lester

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Description area

Dates of existence

1898-1977

History

Lester Leland Burry was born on July 12, 1898 at Safe Harbour, Bonavista Bay to Stephen and Marie (Bourne) Burry. He attended school at Safe Harbour and Greenspond. In 1923, he graduated from Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick with a degree in Arts and Theology. He returned to Newfoundland and was ordained as a Methodist minister at Gower St. United Church on June 30, 1924.
Rev. Burry served in St. Anthony as his first pastoral charge, remaining for 4 years. While in St. Anthony he met and married on Sept 4 , 1928 a teacher - Amelia Marie Penney of St. Anthony. After their marriage the Burrys were transferred to the pastoral charge of Curling for one year and then to Little Bay Islands for a further three years. While in Little Bay Islands, Rev. Burry was asked to serve the Hamilton Inlet Mission in Labrador for a period of three years. Dr. Burry and his wife moved to Northwest River, the base for the mission, and remained there for 26 years. In 1931 the Hamilton Inlet Mission was one of the largest geographically in Canada, comprising the 100 mile Inlet area and extended along the coast for another 200 miles. In this setting, Dr. Burry had to deal with the vastness, the sparse, spread-out population and the weather. In summer, travel was by Mission Boat - the “Glad Tidings II” (which he designed) - and in winter by dog team and in the last 8 years of his work in Labrador by snowmachine. Extended pastoral visits took 7 weeks twice a year for Rev. Burry to reach all the members of his pastoral charge, and in between there were shorter visits to other communities not as far-flung.
Dr. Burry recognized the isolation of the trappers who often were dozens of miles away from their families for many months of the year. He built crystal radio sets and earphones for the trappers and obtained a surplus radio transmitter from the American air base. On Sunday evenings the trappers were able to hear the church broadcast. On Tuesday evenings the women could talk with their husbands and friends on the trap lines. One resident commented that this was the best thing that could happen to Labrador. This service was expanded to include fishing schooners, fishing communities on the coast, light house keepers, traders and clerks at Hudson Bay outposts, and Sunday School classes.
Rev. Burry represented Labrador at the Newfoundland National Convention 1946-48 and was one of seven delegates to the meetings which worked out the Terms of Union of Newfoundland with Canada. He attended the official opening of the Churchill Falls Hydroelectric Development and saw the beginnings of iron ore mining in Labrador.
After the end of his mission work in Labrador (1957), the Burrys served the pastoral charge of Clark’s Beach for 2 years, then moved to St. John’s where Rev. Burry became chaplain to hospitals and institutions for the United Church for 4 years. He became Minister Emeritus of Cochrane St. United Church at this time, served on this church’s Board of Sessions, was chairman of St. John’s Presbytery of United Church of Canada (1958-59), and President of the Newfoundland and Labrador Conference of United Church of Canada (1959-60). Rev. Burry retired from active ministry in 1963.
In addition to his church work, Rev. Burry was involved in education, and was a strong advocate of interdenominational education. He was an avid gardener, photographer, amateur radio operator, and supporter of the John Howard Society (and served as its President for a time).
Rev Burry was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Theology from Pine Hill Theological College in 1950 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in December, 1969. In 1975, the town of Happy Valley, Labrador named one of its streets “Burry Crescent” in honour of his contribution to Labrador.
Rev. Burry died on August 31, 1977 in St. John’s.

Places

Safe Harbour
Labrador
Northwest River
St. John's
St. Anthony
Curling
Clark's Beach

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Authority record identifier

CA NL0003 001

Institution identifier

United Church of Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Conference

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