IRONWOOD, Mich. - Dr. Raymond "Ray" Francis Burchell, Jr., 85, of Ironwood, passed away on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024, at Westgate Nursing, Rehabilitation, and Assisted Living Center in Ironwood. The family is sincerely and deeply grateful for the loving, compassionate and excellent care Ray received from Westgate's caregivers and staff.
Ray was born on Oct. 24, 1938, son of the late Dr. Raymond and Katherine (Robinson) Burchell. He grew up in Akron, New York, and graduated from Akron High School. Ray attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for his undergraduate years and went on to graduate in 1962 with a Doctorate in Dental Surgery from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.
While in Ann Arbor, Ray met the love of his life, Virginia M. Velin, and they married there on Jan. 2, 1962. They shared most every day together for nearly 57 years before Virginia passed away on Nov. 18, 2018.
Following graduation from dental school, Ray was stationed at Forbes Air Force Base as a captain in Topeka, Kansas. Upon his honorable discharge from the Air Force in 1967, Ray and Virginia moved to Ironwood where he built his private dental practice alongside his father-in-law, Dr. Verner H. Velin. He continued a successful dental practice in Ironwood for 33 years until his retirement in 2000.
Ray enjoyed skiing, golfing, bowling, hunting and fishing, as well as vegetable gardening, reading historical nonfiction, astronomy, music and dancing. In retirement, Ray and Virginia relished summers at Lake Gogebic and winters on the gulf coast of Alabama. Ray was particularly thrilled to sail the Panama Canal, a bucket list goal, with Virginia and special cousins Barbara, David and Vonnie.
Ray was a kind, true gentleman with an optimistic outlook, a zest for life, and a clever sense of humor. Ray delighted in gathering with friends and family, sharing good food, fellowship and conversation. He especially loved homemade fruit pies, apple being his favorite, or any dessert with a "good crust," as he put it.
Throughout his life in Ironwood, Ray was a devoted and active member of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church and served on numerous committees and civic organizations, including the Elks Club, Ironwood Historical Society, and the Historic Ironwood Theatre.
Ray is survived by his three children, Robert (Annette) Burchell, of Ironwood, Patrick (Karen) Burchell, of Evanston, Illinois, and Virginia (Pat) Tyler, of Springfield, Virginia; five grandchildren, Emily (Eric) Fitting, Robert Burchell, Lily Burchell, and Elizabeth and Katie Tyler; and two great-grandchildren, Bodhi and Wynne Fitting. Ray is also survived by his brother-in-law, Paul (Connie) Velin, of Ann Arbor, their children and grandchildren; and many cherished friends and family members.
Ray was preceded in death by his wife, Virginia; parents; beloved aunt, Arline Robinson; and infant son, Raymond Verner Burchell.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, Jan. 26, at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Ironwood with Father Brian Gerber officiating. There will be a visitation at the church from 9:30 a.m. until the time of the Mass. Burial will take place at Riverside Cemetery in Ironwood this summer.
One of Ray's legacies was his stewardship of the historic Siemen building (Velin/Burchell building) in downtown Ironwood where he practiced dentistry, now home to the Downtown Art Place, a non-profit regional visual arts center.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial fund will be established with donations going to the Downtown Art Place, 111 E. Aurora St., Ironwood MI 49938, or visit downtownartplace.com/donate.
Friends may leave condolences and tributes to Ray's family online at mckevittpatrickfuneralhome.
The family has chosen McKevitt-Patrick Funeral Home and Cremation Services of Ironwood.