LYNDEN — Dave Burns is so serious about retirement, he’s giving away the furniture in his office.
Recently, Burns had a sign on one of the desks at his Grover Street office, a perfectly decent (yet not new) wood desk. The desk was situated in the front yard of the office he has worked out of since 1982. It’s that same desk that Burns sat atop for photographs just before this interview.
Burns started his insurance career on Front and 5th streets, downtown Lynden. The building is now in use by Snapper Shuler Kenner (SSK) Insurance. After close to five decades in the insurance industry, Burns says good-bye to work and hello to leisure on July 30.
Growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Burns didn’t grow up with designs of a career as an insurance man. Wanted to be a jet pilot, that was my aspiration.
He also didn’t plan to meet his wife – a Lynden native – at Calvin College (now Calvin University).
They married, then moved back to her hometown seven years later. It’s here they planned to stay, it’s here they have stayed.
“We moved out here in 1972,” he said. “And I knew nothing about it, other than through our visits.”
It’s funny how life happens. Burns never even learned to fly.
Thinking of others
Nobody would ever accuse Dave Burns of being a taker. For more than 20 years, Dave Burns the Insurance Man also served on city council. He also got himself involved in high school refereeing. In fact, Burns is a founding father of the girls high school officials association, back in 1978. The association served Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, until it became part of what is now the Washington Officials Association.
“When women’s basketball came into vogue, the girls were as entitled to the sports exposure as anyone else,” he said.
As an insurance man, he also gave back to his customers. Not with free insurance, but with quality service and good information. Burns knew, intrinsically, that you can make a living just as easily by being a decent human being.
“Dave loved being an agent,” said Angelica Perez, his office manager. “Whether it was him writing letters, making calls, or giving my husband side jobs to help with financially, Dave is always there. We never asked him to help, yet he is always willing.”
About eight years ago, Perez had graduated college and was looking for employment. Nobody wanted to hire her, she said, without experience. Yet nobody would help her gain the experience she needed.
For a short time, she did work with an insurance agent. When she learned the office was to be closed, it appeared Perez would again be out of work.
“A few days after, Dave personally walks into our office as we are cleaning everything out and he comes up to me out of the other four eligible people and asks me if I am looking for work,” she said. “He introduced himself as Dave the State Farm Agent across the street. I was emotional because although it was a different agent, my job was essentially the same, State Farm. Dave gave me the opportunity to give my family a better life financially, but still be able to experience life with them.”
Now, Burns can also spend more time with his family.
“It’s great for him. He deserves that extra time with his family,” Perez said. “I’ve been truly blessed to work here.”
Ana Zamudio has been his customer service representative for more than a year. Zamudio also said working for Burns has been a blessing.
“I have enjoyed having conversations with him about the past, future and present,” Zamudio said. “I am grateful to have had him as my employer and to say that I too was graced by his generous personality.”
Rather nonchalantly, Burns said that on his last day, he expects to “walk out and not sell any more insurance.”
Burns has sold his office to an American Family Insurance agent, but that doesn’t mean his policies will go unmanaged or become the property of another company. Those policies will continue to be State Farm Insurance policies.
The soon-to-be-former insurance man said he looks forward to spending more time at the family’s Birch Bay cabin.
“It’s the nicest, quietest relaxing atmosphere we could ask for,” Burns said. “We’ll be spending time there, and we enjoy traveling. Perhaps we’ll take a road trip or two.”