Walton C. Burwell, Quaker guidance counselor, entrepreneur and volunteer, dies at 83


Walton C. Burwell, 83, of Philadelphia, retired guidance counselor for the Philadelphia School District, entrepreneur, tireless Quaker volunteer and mentor, died Sunday, Oct. 23 of complications from lung cancer at Suburban Community Hospital.

Selfless, optimistic and industrious, Mr. Burwell spent nearly two decades as a guidance counselor to Philadelphia high school students in need of guidance. He’s helped countless teens nearing graduation discover hidden skills and expand their expectations, and directed them to specific colleges, training programs and job opportunities they didn’t want. might not have encountered otherwise.

He worked for nearly a decade at JEVS Human Services as a representative and community contact, and he and his wife, Crettie, operated a temp work business in the 1960s before their daughters were born.

A lifelong Quaker and member of Germantown Monthly Meeting since 1977, Mr. Burwell was a tireless volunteer whose service to the Society of Friends was highlighted by a trip to Bududa, Uganda, during which he mentored young whose parents had died.

He has served on many action committees, including the Fellowship of Friends of African Descent, and has volunteered with other non-profit organizations and service groups such as the Willits Granting Group, the Willits Book Trust of Philadelphia and the Library Company.

In 2018 he led a Willits Book Trust committee which donated 250 copies of the book Between the Kola Forest and the Salt Sea: A History of the Liberian People Before 1800 to Liberian libraries. It was written by Carl Patrick Burrowes, and Mr. Burwell said in an article on the Philadelphia Annual Meeting website: “We are honored and humbled to be able to support Dr. Burrowes and the work he will do at the Liberia”.

Mr. Burwell became executive director of the Paul Robeson House & Museum and served on the board of owners of the Rittenhouse Savoy. If something needed to be done, his daughters said, he usually did it.

“Her hobby was volunteer work,” her daughter Robin Romito said. “He brought people together and always thought about the other side of things. He was the epitome of being a Quaker.

Her youngest daughter, Holly Sabo, said: ‘It was her kindness that stood out. I have never seen him angry. He was still smiling. It lit up all the rooms.

Born June 20, 1939, in Philadelphia, Mr. Burwell grew up in North Philadelphia, was active as a teenager at the Heritage House community center and graduated from Germantown High School in 1958. He met Crettie Bronson – his ” dream girl”. he said – one day at work and wrote in a short profile in 2019: “I knew from my first sight that I wanted to take her out to dinner and get to know her better. When we went for dinner it turned out beyond my expectations.

They married in the late 1960s, had daughters Robin and Holly, and lived in West Mount Airy and later the Rittenhouse Savoy in Center City. His wife died in 2000.

Mr. Burwell was a creative father who encouraged his daughters to dream big and make those dreams come true. He was a carpenter and a writer. He helped with school projects, was an example of strength and positivity, and took the family on a European adventure when the girls were young.

He enjoyed cooking, walking downtown, and listening to Miles Davis and other jazz musicians. He sought new experiences, embraced technology and intellectual growth, and enjoyed being part of a team.

“He was genuine and a good partner,” Romito said. “People knew he wanted to help. They could feel it. He made you feel good to be around him.

“He found the right one in every situation,” Sabo said. “He was a kind soul.”

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Burwell is survived by a granddaughter and other relatives. A brother died earlier.

A celebration of his life will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, November 19 at the Germantown Monthly Meeting, 47 W. Coulter St., Philadelphia Pa. A reception will follow at 2 p.m.

Donations in her name may be made to the Bududa America Foundation, c/o Barbara Wybar, 111 Rex Ave., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19118.


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