Darin Frank Burckhard was the red-headed son at the tail end of an Irish German family. He was born in Grand Forks and grew up across the river in East Grand Forks. He was undisputedly a Mamma’s boy and Dad’s favorite golf buddy. He played “Don’t touch the floor” with his older siblings Danny, Debbie, and Doni-Erin, resulting in one of many trips to the hospital for stitches as he missed jumping from dresser to bunk bed. Summers were spent at Big Birch Lake with the Burckhard relatives swimming, playing games and having campfires with his cousins.
In his teen years he started his career at Valley Golf Course as a greens keeper and took full advantage of free rounds of golf in the afternoons. This is the reason later in life his own lawn was perfection. Often, he mowed beautiful intricate patterns including precise circles to the amusement of the neighbors.
Darin made his drumming debut in the band “Armageddon.” Unfortunately, their first gig was a bust due to a ND snowstorm. Inspired by Neil Peart (RUSH), he played through college and later passed on that passion to both his children.
Darin was proud of his Alma Matter, UND home of the Fighting Sioux. He was a brilliant student who understood the complexity of calculus and had neat penmanship that benefited him as he earned his Civil Engineering degree. College was also a fun time where he bonded with his Phi Kappa Alfa Fraternity brothers in many pranks and adventures. He met his first girlfriend, a Pike Lil’ Sis Amy Castelli, and it was love at first sight. After their first date he immediately called his best friend and said, “I’m going to marry that girl.”
Darin did an internship with his Uncle in Texas. He wrote letters all summer to Amy reporting on the size of the cockroaches, his camping experiences under the airport runway, and life away from home. These letters were more humorous than romantic. Six months later, Darin graduated and landed a job in the Twin Cities with TSP as a structural engineer in December of 1987. His boss took him in like a son and provided the opportunity for him to become an expert in the field. He bought a camera with his first paycheck and saved his next few paychecks to buy a diamond ring. A year later in 1989, Darin and Amy celebrated their marriage with six priests and hundreds of friends and family.
They lived in Minnetonka and loved to explore the city- biking, in-line skating, and being tourists. Summer weekends were spent canoeing and camping up north with their college friends. Life was good, but it was about to get even better. Kailey was born in the spring of 1993. Darin became the official baby swaddler, quicker and faster than any dad. He loved rocking his baby girl to sleep each night. Two years minus one day later, Keegan was born and made the family whole. Darin’s boss started his own business Professional Design Group in Northfield, and D became his right hand man.
Darin passed up his dream vehicle to buy a mini-van that carted the kids to swimming, baseball, basketball, and soccer practices. He spent Saturdays at Buck Hill in the chalet waiting for the kids after an unsuccessful attempt to learn how to snowboard. He diligently left work every day at 4 p.m. so he could be home to supervise homework and make mac ‘n cheese. These little kids adored their daddy! Darin traveled to golf with his dad two weeks each year. Family always came first.
The kids’ high school years were definitely a highlight. Kailey and Keegan were in the Rosemount High School Marching Band. Kailey played Marimba in the pit, and Keegan played snare. Darin volunteered to load the truck, scoot equipment on the field, and engineer crazy props. Darin and Amy traveled to all their shows, and the band parents became their family. He was a proud dad!
All too soon they graduated and went off to college. As Darin watched Kailey row for the University of Wisconsin-Madison her freshman year, he wore a Badger hat but still had on his Fighting Sioux t-shirt. Keegan headed north to the University of Minnesota – Duluth, and then Darin finally got his Ford F-150 pickup truck to move all that dorm room stuff.
Darin was the lead Structural Engineer at Professional Design Group (PDG), working on projects spanning decades for Malt-O-Meal, Faribault Foods, Brown Printing, Uponor, Carlton, St. Olaf College, and numerous other clients. He remained with PDG in Northfield until his boss retired, and then worked for a short time with Power Engineers. Darin eventually joined Tekton in Northfield in 2013. He had a way to calm down the high-strung client, make others laugh, and of course earned the respect of all as he never lost his cool. His dedication was unmatched. For example, he left a job site and drove himself to the hospital because of a kidney stone and retuned a few hours later to finish the job.
There were no work meetings on Tuesday afternoons as that was reserved for his golf buddies at Northfield Golf Club. He also went Saturday mornings and any other tee time he was invited to play. He was a solid golfer and a favorite partner to play with. He never swore, threw his clubs, or got upset if a shot went in the bunker. He served on the board of directors for a year, painted the inside of the golf club not once, but twice, and enjoyed playing in the fairways. Every summer, Amy came out on Thursdays for Couples League. The annual Cheater Tournament was a favorite event of theirs, and Darin stole the show in his loud orange shorts and knee highs. He reminded us all of how crazy his dad used to dress for a round of golf. He loved his golf brothers and laughed uncontrollably, especially when conducting their “Secret Investment” group. He was a magnet that all wanted to be around.
Darin’s other hobbies included reading the criminal section of the local paper to see who was naughty, shopping at the dollar store, solving crossword puzzles, watching HGTV, and feeding treats to all the neighborhood dogs. In his prime he started running and completed seven half-marathons, two Warrior Dashes, a Triathlon, and other competitive running events.
One thing the Burckhards loved to do was travel, visiting Hawaii, several Caribbean Islands, Mexico, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, California, and several trips to Florida, Colorado and Phoenix to see family. One of his favorite vacations was the trip to the Tetons in 2016. Way, way too many funny stories about one week in a Suburban with eight people and our close encounters with Elk, Bison, and other wildlife.
Darin’s world changed in a day when he was diagnosed with Glioblastoma in January 2017. The news of brain cancer is enough to devastate many but not Darin. He just said “We are the lucky ones because we have loved.” He simply carried on and was devoted to do anything to give him more sunsets with his family. First, was surgery to remove one of the three tumors. The day after the staples were removed, he was on a plane to Mexico for a week. The day after he got back, he started radiation followed by chemo. The next commitment to extend life was to shave his head every day and wear Optune. Never did he complain about wearing Optune or lugging around his battery pack. To him, it was hope and a sacrifice he’d willingly make for another day with his kids, family, and friends. He rowed everyday he was feeling good and tried to remain as independent as he could be. No doubt, he was brave and humble. He was so positive and an inspiration to many. He made it clear that he wanted to play and travel. He so loved the ocean and the beach. In the following 22 months after his Mexico trip, he traveled to Las Vegas (NV), Denver (CO), Florida a few times including Key West, Cocoa Beach, Rosemary Beach, Ely (MN), Duluth (MN), Madison (WI), Grand Forks (ND), Jamaica, Half Moon Lake (WI), Folly Beach (SC), and Stone Lake (WI). He even got to New Orleans to cheer the Saints on to victory. In June, his golf BFFs made his dream come true when they stole him away for a few days and did a road-trip to the Masters Golf Tournament. He lost 3/4th of his vision and eventually the feeling in his right arm and leg. Yet through it all, he never complained.
The true testimony of who Darin was as a person was in the out pouring of prayers, love and visits over the past almost two years. Certainly in the last weeks of his life it was a revolving door as co-workers, golf buddies, neighbors, friends, and family came to say their farewells. Stories after stories were told with laughter and sincerity. He was so deeply loved by all and especially by his wife and children. Darin took his final trip as a one-way ticket to Heaven. He leaves us with his positivity and mission to carry on, love, and travel.
Darin Burckhard is survived by his wife of 29 years, Amy Burckhard; daughter Kailey Burckhard-Madison WI; son Keegan Burckhard; brother Daniel Burckhard-Grand Forks ND; sister Debbie (Loran) Fearing-Mesa AZ; and Sister Doni-Erin (Laramie) Olson-Grand Forks ND. He was proceeded in death by his mom, Dot Burckhard; dad, Frank Burckhard; grandparents Frank and Christine Burckhard and Allen and Mary Barrett, as well as several aunts and uncles.
Saturday, November 24
St. John Neumann Catholic Church
4030 Pilot Knob Road, Eagan
Visitation 8:30 – 10:15 a.m.
Mass 10:30 a.m.
Lunch 11:45 a.m.
Darin was special to each of you. Please memorialize him in a way that brings you comfort and peace. Donation to the American Brain Tumor Association, flowers, teeing one up for Darin, taking a long walk to see the sunset, eating an Oreo, or buying more dollar store cocoa butter chapsticks than you could ever possible use. The best way is to hold your head high, carry on, and positively impact someone’s life today. He’d like that!