Valley Lives - Kurt Burgstaller

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 10, 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Chelsea loses unofficial watchdog

by Anastasia Philopoulos

Kurt Burgstaller, 87, died on June 1.

Every first Monday of the month, there he would be, sitting in the lobby before a Chelsea council meeting, cane in hand, rosy cheeked, and never without a glint in his eye.

Valley Lives
Kurt Burgstaller at his beloved family cottage back in 2012. The Chelsea resident who became a mainstay at council meetings died on June 1. Photo courtesy Christine Kilb.

It was that spark that undoubtedly alerted strangers to his fierce intelligence and feisty personality.

Kurt Burgstaller was a mainstay of Chelsea council meetings, often asking questions or making comments, meeting privately with councillors or calling them at home to discuss Chelsea's big development projects.

"I think it was his commitment to Chelsea more than anything else and his desire to share his knowledge and experience," said Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green.

For a series of Low Down reporters he was a great source; for many councillors, he was a revered fixture at meetings.

"He would catch me, and others, at the end of our meetings, to comment and offer sage advice," said Chelsea councillor Barbara Martin. "His encouragement and advice were a huge support to me when the issues on council's agenda were difficult."

Councillor Pierre Guénard fondly remembers his first encounter with Burgstaller back in 2013 when the councillor was going door to door, campaigning for the municipal election. He stayed at the Chelsea man's home for over an hour talking and remembers it was dark by the time he left.

"He always had a word on every subject," Guénard said. "Mr. Burgstaller was a man of great integrity. I really appreciated his honesty."

Burgstaller was also a great dad, raising two daughters with his wife of 45 years, Gertrude. His youngest, Christine Kilb, remembers her father as a man of strong values.

"Everybody looked up to my dad," Kilb said. "Regardless of what the consequences were, he always did what was right."

A self-taught expert on construction, Burgstaller worked various projects over the years. The family moved from just outside Montreal to the Mont Tremblant area when the girls were young.

It was about 15 years ago that Burgstaller moved to Chelsea with his wife, where he quickly got involved with Chelsea's politics, wading into hot topics like the Meredith Centre or the Farm Point sewage system.

Kilb says her father's dedication to Chelsea life was primarily due to his simple belief in making the world a better place.

"So many of us today don't make the time, or we don't want to ruffle feathers, but Dad wasn't like that," Kilb said. "He was a solid man, who believed you stand up for what you believe in. Not everyone loved him but he was greatly admired for that."

In recent years, Kilb says her fondest memories have been of her father and his five grandkids. He loved pulling the quarter behind the ear trick and would go to great lengths to reinvent it for his grandchildren, including props and stories.

"He's irreplaceable in our family," Kilb said. "He modeled his values extremely well... and it's his legacy."

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