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Burr McGrath, age 93, of Grand Rapids, passed away on Wednesday, September 16th, 2020.

Burr and his twin brother, Blaine, were born May 22, 1927, in Edmore to Charles and Blanche (Kinney) McGrath; and moved to the Lee-Godfree area now known as Wyoming, Michigan. There he, along with his 5 brothers and lone sister (and many good friends), entered into any number of shenanigans.

Burr was a scholar, and upon discharge from the Navy after WWII, attended college through the GI-Bill, where he obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Education.  A life-long learner, Burr also obtained his Masters from MSU.  Burr married the love of his life, Mary (Straw), after a blind date set up by one of his brother’s wives. Married 63 years, he was father to three girls, and avid family man.  While often found with a book in his hand, Burr would not hesitate to put it down to share some of his charming Irish Blarney with a neighbor, friend or family visitor.

Burr retired from teaching at Godwin High School after many years of faithful service, and was once honored as “Teacher of the Year” by the class of 1975. As a teacher of History, Economics and other societal genres, Burr enjoyed exploring his hobbies and sharing his life stories with his students and those he loved.  And what stories he had!  A world traveler, golfer (once hit a hole-in-one), lover of nature, camper, fisherman, hunter, and student of the Civil War/WWII, Burr could spin a yarn, and recite poetry to everyone’s delight.

Burr is survived by his three daughters Maureen (John) Bilsky, Julie McGrath Renauldo and Shawn (Rex) Miller; sister Betty Taylor; sister in laws Pat McGrath, Dorothy Wade and Ruthe McNee; brother in law Morris McMurray; and many nieces, nephews, grand children and great grand children.

He is preceded in death by the love of his life Mary; his grandchild Max Renauldo and five brothers.

A graveside service will be held at Grandville Cemetery, Friday, September 25, 2020 at 1:00 pm followed by a celebration of life at 2:30 at Pinery Park, 2301 De Hoop Ave, Wyoming Michigan, 49509.

Please join the family in sharing the stories you have of our Beloved Burr at the above celebration of life; or to send a message of sympathy to the family, sign Burr’s online guest book, or to share a favorite memory, please visit: Cremation arrangements were entrusted to Michigan Cremation & Funeral Care, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 616-452-3006.




Let the family know you care by sharing this tribute.


  1. Patrick McCrevan on September 17, 2020 at 3:28 pm

    McCrevans will be there

  2. Constantine Tgiros on September 17, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    I don’t think I can ever remember seeing Burr without a smile on his face or twinkle in his eye. He will be missed by anyone who knew him.

  3. Kristy Ryan on September 17, 2020 at 6:11 pm

    I had Mr. McGrath for History back in 1981 at Godwin High School.
    Mr. McGrath also grew up with my father in Galewood, and his brother Blaine
    cut my fathers hair for years right across the street on Burton. My sister also was
    friends with his daughter Maureen.
    What a wonderful person. Please accept our condolences from Me and my family.

  4. Linda Sharp-Scarorough on September 17, 2020 at 6:24 pm


  5. Jenny Otterbein Dykgraaf on September 17, 2020 at 6:25 pm

    He was one of my favorite teachers. The stories he told were amazing.

  6. Linda Sharp-Scarborough on September 17, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Mr. McGrath was one of my favorite teachers. I loved being in his class. My sympathy to all of his family and friends. What a wonderful teacher he was!

  7. Nancy Bloye McCarty on September 17, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    One of my very favorite teachers. Mr. McGrath you were one of the best rest in peace and blessings to your family.

  8. Hal Wright on September 17, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    Condolences from a former student, Godwin Class of 1984. How blessed Burr was with such a long, full life!

  9. Pam Patterson on September 17, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    He was one of my most favorite teachers and encouraged me to read. I still love reading. My sympathies to his family. Godwin class of 1971.

  10. Jim Leale on September 17, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Was in his class when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Other than that moment he was a great teacher liked by all the students, never heard a bad word about him. Rest in Peace Mr. McGrath!

  11. Donna Wendt on September 17, 2020 at 7:21 pm

    I had Mr. McGrath for government at Godwin High School. He was the best government teacher I had. The projects he set up and the visit to the city of Wyoming made school interesting.

  12. Peggy Kasul on September 17, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Definitely my all time favorite teacher. After a movie, or the overhead projector work, he would always say to whoever was closest to the light switch ” ____ , flip the switch, and let there be light” Or the time he went off, telling our class how he didn’t like Disney Movies, because afterwards he always had 3 girls sobbing when they watched them. He touched many hearts, and will live in many more. RIP Mr. McGrath.

  13. Michelle Tipton on September 17, 2020 at 8:06 pm

    Our condolences to your family. Mr McGrath was a teacher that obviously loved his profession! He taught with energy and cared for all of his students! Seniors always enjoyed his stories. He was an icon at Godwin. We are thinking of you all.

  14. Barbara Potyraj-Robinson on September 17, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    And he would wheel the piano across the school from the music room to the history class and sing war songs from the civil war to the Viet Nam war.
    He always made history relevant. ❤️

  15. Lori (Visser) Stemen on September 17, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    He was a favorite teacher and had the pleasure of hearing several stories and poems. My prayers are with his family.

  16. Mark Sheeran on September 17, 2020 at 9:25 pm

    My sympathies to the whole family
    Mr.McGrath was the teacher that kept everything interesting. We were learning and having fun. Very intelligent man.Mark

  17. Carol Nemeth on September 17, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    He was a great teachet. I remember when a student did something stupid he’d quote the Bible, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” And also the famous , “Let there be light” when the lights came on.

  18. Tami McNee on September 17, 2020 at 9:41 pm

    Uncle Burr was my favorite (as an in-law niece), he was always so loving and told my late hubby Brian, who was a direct nephew, how good looking he was! I’m sure they are having a blast in our heavenly home! Happy reunion all family members! See you soon! ❤️💕❤️💕

  19. Pat Lowe Connor on September 17, 2020 at 10:02 pm

    I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the McGrath family. I’m so grateful for the time I spent in Mr. McGrath’s classroom. He taught so effortlessly and was always quick with a story, quote or anecdote. I remember before tests or quizzes He would say … “To thine own self be true…” and “He who steals my purse steals trash, but he who steals my good name…”
    He made a difference in my life and he just came to mind earlier this week, and I’m happy the memory of him left me with a smile.
    Thanks for the memories, Mr. McGrath. You were one of the best teachers ever. Rest In Peace. 💙
    Pat (Lowe) Connor

  20. Jim Stawicki on September 17, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    I had Mr. McGrath for History and Economics. He made a huge impact on my education at Godwin In 1976 and inspired me to always strive to achieve. My condolences to his family.

  21. Jerry Clement on September 17, 2020 at 11:15 pm

    I remember, on our first day of class, Mr McGrath asking me about my family name. Turns out He, and Blaine grew up with my Dad’s family in the Galewood (Lee School) area. Blaine was my Dad’s barber for years! He was a great teacher and a great man. He made class interesting. I remember when he gave me, in the library, the book “Andersonville” to read for book reports. It was such a long read that he let me report several times as I read it. That book taught me the horrors of war. I recommend it highly. Rest in Peace Mr. Burr McGrath. You have made such a positive impact on my, and some many other’s, lives. God Bless You, Sir.

  22. Chris (Park) Casey on September 17, 2020 at 11:32 pm

    My deepest condolences to his family and friends. A wonderful teacher, as I have fond memories of being in his classroom. Class of ‘85.

  23. Ronald Marsiglia on September 18, 2020 at 12:18 am

    On Behalf of American Legion
    Roger B. Chaffee Post # 154, &
    Myself: I Would like to Extend to
    You & Your Family My Heartfelt
    Condolences on your Families
    Sincerely: Ron Marsiglia
    Post Chaplain # 154

  24. Diane (Bard) Geelhoed on September 18, 2020 at 12:18 am

    My all-time favorite teacher! I graduated in 71. Thanks for those that shared, “Let there be light” because I had forgotten that. My mom went to school with him and his brother at Lee High.
    Prayers for the family.

  25. Betsy Anderson on September 18, 2020 at 8:24 am

    To all the beautiful McGrath girls who would do cheer routines outside their living room window and were skilled at running on those big wooden spools on your backyard….I’m so very sorry for your loss. I always thought your dad was so kind and reading through the messages I wished I would have known him better. May the memories of your sweet dad comfort you on the days to come!
    Betsy (Helmus) Anderson
    (Canterbury Neighbor)

  26. Kelli Fischer Austin on September 18, 2020 at 9:15 am

    Mr McGrath is one of the few teachers I remember who could touch people at the heart level. My condolences to the family. Class of ‘77.

  27. Patti Clemenshaw-Miller on September 18, 2020 at 9:33 am

    RIP ❤️ Class of 1981
    Mr McGrath was a One of a Kind!!

  28. Tracy Taylor Wakefield on September 18, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    From my mother, Betty McGrath Taylor, writing about her brother, Burr.

    Released from Earthly bonds,
    the spirit and soul are free
    to travel farther.
    On eagle’s wings you’ve soared,
    and the lives you’ve touched
    in loving and meaningful ways
    will long be remembered.
    Now, a new day dawns,
    with tender thoughts
    of Burr and Mary.
    Heart to heart and hand in hand,
    walking gently forever
    to the promised land.
    Safe journey, Burr.
    Keep in touch.
    Peace, love, joy, Slainte.
    Your loving sister, Betty.

  29. Tracy Taylor Wakefield on September 19, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    When I think of my Uncle Burr, one word comes to mind . . . character.
    The first reference involves the character that he was; impish, childlike, sometimes naughty. My mom would tell the story of when she was a child and her brother Burr asked her, “Would you run around the house ten times for a dollar?” Excited by the prospect of getting “rich,” she took off. But when she finished, huffing and puffing, she stuck out her hand for the promised reward. Burr just shrugged his shoulders, shook his head, and with a smile curling at his lips said, “I just asked you if you would, I didn’t say I would give it to you . . . ” My mother, bawling, went immediately to my grandmother and Burr was forced to pay up. Later, he’d bail his twin brother Blaine out of any number of predicaments, and I never quite knew how many of those stories were actually true and how many were a testament to his extraordinary gift of Blarney. Later still, he’d follow me outside on a cold winter’s day, cuddle up close, and say, “It’s cold out here, just thought I’d help keep you warm,” and then, “Hey, can I bum a smoke? Don’t tell Mary.” And I never did.
    The second reference to character defined him as a man. He lived his life by an unspoken code of ethics; truth, honor, and integrity. He stepped in to offer guidance and counsel when my father left us. He loved his family, his students, his church. He was a member of The Greatest Generation, serving in WWII, which was truly foretelling at such a young age, because, as it turns out, he truly was the greatest.
    I’ll miss you, my dear uncle.
    — Tracy

  30. David Rinard on September 20, 2020 at 9:04 am

    So very sorry for your loss. Your fathers political philosophy class was one of the most interesting of my high school experience. He was a gifted teacher.

  31. Daniel B. Ward on September 22, 2020 at 10:08 am

    To me, Burr McGrath will always be “Mr. McGrath” in my senior year at Godwin High School in his Government class. He was an excellent teacher and infused an excitement about understanding how government and the Constitution works, etc., a required class where a number of students were not excited to be there. He worked hard and often succeeded in overcoming that resistance. Of the many teachers in the Godwin educational system, Mr. McGrath stands out as one of the best teachers in my experience, a person who obviously loved to teach and share what he wanted us to learn. I will always be grateful in being a student in his class. Deepest sympathy to his family.

  32. Claudia (Smith) Arkesteyn on September 24, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    May your memories be helpful in your grief for a life well lived!!
    I would say Mr. McGrath is one teacher that I every so often think of. He always had a smile on his face as you entered his class. He also always said hello to every student who entered his classroom. What a gift of teaching he had!! So glad he lived a long and wonderful life 🇺🇸
    Class of 1976

  33. Jenny McGrath on September 25, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    How wonderful to see so many of Uncle Burr’s former students share such fond memories, and it’s not at all a surprise so many say he was their favorite teacher. He was a born storyteller, an unfailing wit, and so much fun to be around.

  34. Brian Kalee on September 27, 2020 at 9:53 am

    My class of 86′ was the last class to have Mr. McGrath for government. All the classes above me said that class was going to be hard and tough. That was not the case, when you have a man like Mr. McGrath teaching it with his knowledge and humor it just got you motivated to learn. Just yesterday my youngest was asking how does the entire election process work and I simple rattled off an endless amount information about primary and general elections and the electoral college. Thanks, Mr. McGrath for your teaching and your service to keep us safe in the United States Navy. I salute you sir. RIP

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