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Foster parents are real parents: Just ask the Burich family

LAURIUM — June “Ducky” Burich, long-time foster parent from Laurium, never did quite learn to distinguish her biological kids from her foster children. As far as Ducky is concerned, she simply has more than 300 kids. She and her husband, Tony, took in their first two foster children in 1968. Is it better to say that she retired in 1992, or that the last of her children were grown and gone by 1992? Probably the latter, because even at age 91 and in failing health, many of Ducky’s former foster children still visit her frequently at her home, where she lives with her biological daughter, Antonia, who takes care of her. And while Ducky’s health is in decline, her mind is still sharp, sharp enough to remember, like all moms, all of her children.

“I have the name of every, single child who came here,” Ducky said proudly, “and when they came.”

We do have the records, Antonia added. None of those records are available to the public, however, nor are the names of the children, whether they are adults or not. Their privacy is protected by federal law — and Ducky and Antonia.

As for Antonia, if asked, she will respond that she was just one more child of the Burich household. Born into a unique culture, the product of unique parents, watching her mom devote every day of her life to a household full of children with a wide variety of needs, had a profound impact on Antonia’s view of life, her philosophies on the role of human beings within the human race, and particularly, her belief that people, while they have their own opinions and attitudes, helping others helps the helper as much as the helped.

“I always strove to be not like everybody else,” said Antonia. “I always wanted to better myself, and let other people know that they can better themselves. And when they help other people, it helps them.”

Antonia said that even a young child, she knew she would take care of her parents, so that her her family could go off and do what they wanted to do.

“It’s not a piece of cake,” she said, “even though I love the frosting. It’s not easy, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.”

Ducky talked of Holly Bianco, one of their more than 300 children, and the son that she brought into the world.

“Antonia was in the delivery room while Cody was being born,” she said. “So, Cody knows tons about this family, and he works at the Houghton County Medical Care Facility right now.”

Cody said that his mother, because of Ducky’s influence on her, went on to help other people, particularly in elder care.

“I became a good mother because I had her,” Holly said. “I would never had known how to do it. Don’t get me wrong; I had a very great father, he was excellent, but he worked 12 hours a day to survive, with five kids, so he was gone. I didn’t really get close to him until I was in my early 20s when he retired.”

Ducky said that there was one thing she never did under any circumstance or condition.

“I never talked against their parents,” she said. “Never. No matter what it was like. Never.”

Antonia recalled, emotionally, a child the county brought to Ducky, who was removed from the home because of abuse.

“Whenever the child was bad, the mother would take her cigarette and burn the child,” said Antonia. “(The child) had burn marks all over the belly, all over the upper legs. There were lots of things that we seen happen.”

Ducky reflected on her nearly 30 years of foster parenting.

“If you have love,” she said, “that’s it. You can go with anything that happens in the world. But the love doesn’t come from me, it comes from Jesus.”

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