The hallmarks of Nick Burrus’ career have always been his attention to detail and standing by his work.
“You know what people say about him is he does the job right,” said his friend Shirl Quick.
Burrus, a member of the one of the oldest families in Eastern Jackson County and custom home builder for decades, has helped build his hometown. For those efforts, he’s being honored as the Truman Heartland Community Foundation citizen of the year for Blue Springs.
“He’s one of the last living descendants of the pioneer family that helped found Blue Springs,” said Mayor Carson Ross, who selected Burrus for the honor. (Video: https://youtu.be/M35-DB9_lsc)
The foundation’s annual gala is Oct. 14, honoring Burrus and about a dozen other community leaders from across Eastern Jackson County.
“Well, it came as a complete surprise to me,” Burrus said.
The Burrus family came to the area in the early 1800s, and its story is closely woven into the county’s. John W. and Mary Ann Burrus had a grist mill in Blue Springs. John became the Jackson County sheriff in 1859. His brother James took over the mill, which was badly damaged during the time of Order No. 11 at the height of the Civil War.
That site, at Woods Chapel Road and Walnut Street, today is Burrus Old Mill Park. (Decades after the founding of the mill, the city’s downtown was moved to its present location when the railroad came.)
Jump ahead to Luther Burrus – Nick’s father – who used to hunt and fish with Harry Truman. An aunt, Eula Burrus, was the first woman on the Blue Springs Board of Aldermen. And Rufus Burrus, Nick’s cousin, was a friend and supporter of Truman’s, a legal adviser to the Truman family and later a supporter of the Truman Library. Nick says that’s how he got on the Truman Library board – his cousin simply told him he was doing it.
Nick came along 90 years ago, the youngest of eight brothers and sisters. He’s a Blue Springs High School graduate, class of 1945. He worked as construction laborer, then a carpenter’s aide, then during the Korean War as a carpenter at the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.
“And went I left there, I went to work for myself,” he said.
He had worked with his brothers, building a few homes here and there.
In fact, the home of which he remains the most proud is the one he built for his mother in 1948, at 316 18th St. in Blue Springs.
“And it’s still there,” he said.
He got into building custom homes across the area – Blue Springs, Grain Valley, Pleasant Hill, Lake Tapawingo, Lake Lotawana and elsewhere. More than 100 over the years.
“I’ve built some nice homes,” he said.
He has helped out in other ways through the years, with the Shriners and the Masons. “I’ve got 63 years in as a master Mason,” he said. He worked to rehabilitate historic buildings and has helped the local historical society.
He’s carried on the Burrus family tradition of making a contribution.
Mayor Ross added, “If only his ancestors could take a look and see what Blue Springs has become.”