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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Harold David Burks, 89, of Newport News

Harold David Burks (Weymouth Funeral Home & Crematory)

Harold David Burks passed away on March 2, 2023, at 89 years of age, due to complications from surgery for a bowel perforation.

Harold was born in Edmond, Oklahoma, on November 23, 1933. After two years in the Air Force, he earned a B.S. in physics from the University of Central Oklahoma and worked for several years at Tinker Air Force Base. In 1962, he married Susan Love Crowder, and they moved to Virginia for Harold’s new job at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton.

During Harold’s more than 35 years as a government physicist, he developed various patented plastics for use in NASA’s space program and other projects. He also oversaw the construction and management of a new multi-million-dollar lab for his research group. In 2011, he was honored by the Oklahoma History Center as one of about 25 Oklahomans-including astronauts, mission control specialists, and other scientists and engineers-for their contributions to the space program. All honorees were profiled in Bill Moore’s book, From Red Dirt to Rockets: Oklahomans and Space.

As a teenager, Harold discovered shortwave “ham” radio, obtaining his novice license in 1951. Upon moving to Virginia, he relinquished his original call sign, W5WAH, for W4OWT. Before his death, he achieved 70-year membership in the American Relay Radio League and had made confirmed radio contact with all but a few of the over 300 league-recognized regions of the world.

Harold was predeceased by his parents and his wife of 52 years, Susan Crowder Burks. He is survived by his daughter, Stephanie Burks Paine, son-in-law Pete Paine, and grandson Stuart Paine, all of Newport News, as well as several cousins. A small private memorial service will be held at a later date.

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