She earned the title ‘Mother Theresa of Laurium’
LAURIUM — June Diane Louise “Ducky” Burich has achieved many accomplishments in her 91 years, many without meaning to accomplish.
Burich has served on the Laurium Village Council, worked in the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw School Systems and former Sacred Heart Central Schools as a teacher, and was a religious education teacher for over 40 years. Extremely active in the Catholic Church, Burich served on her Parish Council, Marquette Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, and was involved in the organization to promote the canonization of the Venerable Bishop Frederick Baraga. And while devoting herself to her community, working, and raising a family (her husband was the late Officer Tony Burich of the Laurium Police Department), her family consisted of more than 300 children.
“I had just had a baby,” Ducky said, “and I knew I was going to be in for the whole winter. Tony and I agreed that we would take in preschoolers, and instead of getting preschoolers. I got a six-month-old baby. It was just like having a set of twins.”
Then, she said, the county then sent her a 17-year-old wayward girl.
“So, I never did get, in the beginning, my preschoolers,” said Ducky. “My ‘preschoolers’ ended up being six months, and 17 years old. They were with me just today.”
Antonia, Burich’s daughter, said that this past summer, a foster child reached out to her, requesting permission to contact Ducky, to visit with her, more than 44 years later.
“People are still looking,” Antonia said, “because she made such an impact on their lives. After 44 years, she came, and we spent time talking together.”
Ducky said her inspiration for becoming a foster parent was, she believes, her mother, then added, her husband was, also.
“Tony was always pretty good with letting me do what I wanted,” she said.
Antonia said Ducky and Tony were given children from jail, other foster systems, including reform schools, and even from the local hospital.
“They got a three-day-old baby once,” said Antonia. “It was just around Christmas time; no name, even, and they named her Joy, because of Christmas time.”
Among the joyful stories, when raising 300 children, there are sad tales, as well, including one of an infant whose mother passed away.
“The baby was left by the dead body for days,” said Ducky, “I think it was three days, before they brought her to me.”
She said when a starving babies are fed, their tongues become inflamed, and every time she tried to feed her, the baby would choke. To feed the baby, Ducky needed to depress her tongue with a spoon to get the food into the back of her mouth.
“She’d get every bit of it down,” said Ducky, “really, and when they came to get the baby, after they found out the baby was with me, Social Services came to (examine her), and said that when they saw the job I had done with the baby, they would not take her.”
She continued to live with Ducky until the county found an adoptive home for her.
Communicative diseases were another issue Burich had to contend with, said Antonia, particularly those children who were rejected by the hospital suffering with Ringworm, a skin infection caused by a fungus that can cause a circular rash that is usually red and itchy. The fungi that cause the infection can live on skin, surfaces, and on household items such as clothing, towels, and bedding. and Scabies, which is contagious and can spread very easily from person to person through close physical contact.
While she treated the affected children, said Antonia, no one else in the household contracted either illness.
Ducky discussed three brothers, small children, who were brought to her with ringworm, and when they arrived, she was up-front with them in telling them what they could expect.
“I told them ‘you’re not going to like this, but you’re going to be cleaned up, have a bath, and then you’ve got to go upstairs, and stay in a room until your rash is all gone.”
Antonia added that, in short, the boys were virtually quarantined, but were, of course, well taken care of.
“Everyday, you have wash and scrub everything,” said Antonia, to offer some perspective of the extent of that care. “You had to wash the bedding, take the beds apart — I mean, it was total sanitization — every day, among all the other house chores that she had to do: getting the meals prepared for all the other children; cleaning the other children, and she never had additional help come in.”
In spite of the darker stories, like those, Antonia said she has always felt fortunate to be born into such a lifestyle and culture.
“And these are why, back in the day,” said Antonia, “she was known as the Mother Theresa of Laurium. Because, anybody in need, who was a child, was not turned away. They would come to her.”