Burr sees his old friend, Charley Pride, play one last timeSince November, life had been cruel to longtime Hastings resident Ray Burr. Doctors diagnosed him with terminal lung cancer that month, and he was given just six months to live.
By: Chad Richardson, RiverTowns, The Republican Eagle
Since November, life had been cruel to longtime Hastings resident Ray Burr. Doctors diagnosed him with terminal lung cancer that month, and he was given just six months to live.
His family took the news hard. So, when Ray mentioned over the winter that he wanted to see his old friend Charley Pride play one last time, the Burrs got busy. They wanted to make that dream come true.
Immediately, the family examined Pride's tour schedule to see when he would be coming this way. They were shocked to see one date pop up for the popular country music recording artist: Treasure Island Resort & Casino, April 10.
They started doing the math, and it didn't look good. Doctors told Burr in November he had six months to live. Those six months were set to expire, if you will, in April. For all the Burrs, April 10 couldn't get here soon enough.
"There were times we didn't think he was going to make it," his daughter Terry said. "We were just like, 'Hang on, Pop.'"
Burr hung on, all right.
There he was, front and center, as Pride took the stage April 10 at Treasure Island.
His old friend stopped the concert at one point, asked Burr to stand up, then shook his hand. Pride told the audience how the two had served together in the Army, and Pride introduced Burr's guests as the Ray Burr Army. He then dedicated the next song to Burr and everyone else in attendance who served their country.
All the while, Ray Burr sat in the front row smiling.
"I was just beaming with pride, to be able to be there with my dad and to see how happy he was." Terry said. "It was ... more than words can say."
Initially, Burr's daughter Mary Kay had purchased 10 seats for the whole family. They were planning on sitting in the 15th row and were just hoping Ray could talk to Pride either before or after the show.
Mary Kay was working hard on that angle, but wasn't getting very far with Pride's handlers. She switched her tactics and got in touch with Ken Carpenter, the casinp's entertainment manager at Treasure Island.
Carpenter, his assistant Sasha Damsgard and public relations manager Cindy Taube teamed up to give the Burrs one very memorable evening.
First, the family learned they could be part of the meet-and-greet, where Pride took a few minutes to sit down and chat with everyone.
Then, Carpenter delivered the best news: The family's seats had been upgraded. No longer were the Burrs going to be in row 15. Rather, they'd be in the center of the front row.
Throughout the night, Pride would wink and gesture at Burr. When Pride wrapped up his concert, Burr didn't want to leave.
"Oh, it was great," Burr said. "He's a heck of a singer."
Following the show, a Marine who served in Korea approached Burr and saluted him, then shook his hand.
"Thanks for serving," the unnamed Marine told Burr.
"Thinking about it just gives you goosebumps," Terry said.
"Ray just had a huge tear go down his cheek," Taube said. "He was so proud. It was so cool to give him that recognition."
The family had nothing but praise for the staff at Treasure Island.
"It was more than we could have asked for," Mary Kay said. "When I called, I didn't really expect anybody to get back to me. We just wanted this to happen so bad.
"How do you thank those people for the smile that was on his face?"
"It's an answer to a prayer, that's for sure," Bev said.
In the days following the concert, the Burr family has had T-shirts printed up with photographs from the show. There are photo albums of the show and the meet-and-greet. Those photographs are mixed in with all the other shots Burr has of himself and Pride.
For all intents and purposes, it appears as though the concert was the last big hurrah for Ray Burr.
"I wish I wasn't in this shape," he said. "I want to get better, but I guess it ain't gonna be. In fact, we know it ain't gonna be."
For about four months, Pride and Burr served in the same battalion that was going through basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas in about 1960.
Pride sang all the time and many nights he would end up playing guitar and singing for his Army buddies. Burr would often play along with his harmonica, and the two formed a bond.
Over the past 50 years, Pride has played everywhere imaginable. Most times he played in Minnesota, Burr was in the stands cheering on his old buddy.
Meanwhile, Burr came back to Goodhue County to farm, to drive truck, to play softball and to start a family. He married Bev and they had six children together (Terry, Mary Kay, Deborah, Michael, Timothy and Kimberly). Those six joined three children of Bev's (Walter, Roy Jr. and Lester).
The Burr Army is hurting to watch Ray in his final weeks on earth, but they've done everything they can to tell him how loved and appreciated he is.
"We are all very proud of you, dad," Mary Kay said. "We're all very proud to be Ray Burr's Army."
"That's for darn sure," Terry said.