Burtis Lee Dickman, age 86, of Auburn passed away on Thursday, December 27, 2018 at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne.
He was born on August 31, 1932 in Elkhart to Ernest and Ruth (Cummins) Dickman. After his mother’s premature death, Burt was raised by his grandmother who relocated to St. Joe, Indiana. She passed away when he was 15, but he completed high school by working in the Sechler’s Pickles factory after school and in the fields with the migrants when school was not in session.
The night he graduated from St. Joe High School, Burt started work on the B & O Railroad where he achieved 13 years seniority. Just 4 weeks after high school graduation, in June 1951, Burt married Elsie Caroline Baughman. During that time period Burt spent 2 years serving in the US Navy as a submarine radio man in the Korean War. Burt briefly attended Tri State College in Angola.
Burt and Elsie worked extremely hard to build their businesses. They opened Auburn Mobile Home Park in June 1955 (building much of it by hand) then the laundromat in 1958. The couple built West Edge Park which opened in 1965 as well as a mobile home sales 2 years later. The site for a car wash was developed during that time as well as the West Edge Laundry. Then in 1970 came the automatic car wash and in 1980 the Westedge Mall. Burt and Elsie operated all of those businesses, excluding the Dairy Queen which they built in 1968. Burt was Vice-President of the Ft. Wayne BBB in the 60’s. As an affirmation of the quality of the product they sell, Burt and Elsie have lived in a sectional manufactured home since 1988. They were regular recipients of the Fleetwood Customer Satisfaction Awards. As service to the industry, Burt was a member of the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association Northeast Chapter since 1958. Over the years he also served as its President, State Vice-President, and served on the Board of Governors for IMHA. Auburn Homes displayed homes in both Ft. Wayne and South Bend shows. Burt and Elsie have been members of the Chamber of Commerce since 1956. Burt helped found Auburn Industrial Development Corporation for the benefit of Auburn and its residents.
Burt had a strong interest in politics as he understood its impact on citizens. He was elected to the council at large for Auburn from 1980 to 1983 and then served as the 15th mayor of Auburn from 1984 to 1991. Burt used his own 1936 Auburn automobile to promote the city and welcomed 8 new industries to town. He also modernized the Auburn Building Department by bringing in its most qualified building inspector, one who had more certifications than anyone in the state. He converted the Auburn Street Department to an active maintenance and construction program. Burt had the courage to veto a proposal to narrow new streets in subdivisions in Auburn as he wanted to protect the residents’ safety by accommodating emergency vehicles. Burt enjoyed solving problems, such as designing concrete garbage containers for downtown Auburn so that they would not blow over. When he left office, he saw “Help Wanted” signs all over town.
Not only a visionary in business, Burt was also a dreamer in his personal time. In 1957 he designed, built, and operated for the next decade one of the world’s earliest private submarines with an original design and named it the “Goldfish” to search marine insurance claims, but was never able to secure investors so he never built a larger one. Though altered for national security reasons, the design was published in the Navy’s Manned Submersibles reference book, authored by Frank Busby. Burt’s love of the water was also evident in his enjoyment of swimming, scuba diving, and snorkeling. But Burt was not limited by the depths of the sea, he was also intrigued by the sky. He earned and maintained his private pilot’s license from 1968 to 2006. His fascination with other cultures led him to travel the world, spending time in and exploring 6 out of 7 continents.
Then there were the cars: Auburns, Cords, and Duesenbergs! Burt was the first president of the Auburn Automotive Heritage which is now the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, of which he was a lifetime member. He was also a NATMUS lifetime member as well as an ACD Club member. He had been an AACA member since 2014. The first ACD Auction was held on Burt and Elsie’s property east of the Dairy Queen in 1971.
Service to others was important to Burt. At the age of 21 he became a member of Auburn JayCee’s service club and helped to build the pavilion at Memorial Park. He then joined Auburn area Kiwanis club and was a perfect attendance member for 51 years. Burt served as President of the Auburn-Area Kiwanis Club and Lieutenant Governor of this region. Over the years Burt sponsored 2 “little brothers” thru the Big Brothers program. He also served on the Board and was youth director, deacon, and elder at First Christian Church, Auburn. Burt was most recently a member of the Auburn Church of Christ. His compassion for orphans was exhibited in his mission trip to deliver necessary supplies to a Siberian orphanage - driving through eastern European countries to cross the Russian border - and mission trips to Mexico. Burt’s final act of service to others, at his request, was a post-partum donation of his skin tissue for burn victims.
But the very most important to Burt were his faith and his family. We know that Burt is enjoying the presence of his Lord – and very likely asking God a lot of questions. Burt will be sorely missed by Elsie (his wife of 67 years whom he always called his “best girl”), kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids who adored him! Burt and Elsie's most common piece of advice was to work hard. Play hard.
His wife; Elsie Dickman of Auburn.
Daughter; Cynthia Thatcher of South Lake, Texas.
Son and daughter-in-law; Steven and Helen (Carnahan) Dickman of Auburn.
Daughter and son-in-law; Susan and Richard Reger of Auburn.
Son; Donald Dickman of Leo.
Son and daughter-in-law; Gregory and Pamela (Rupert) Dickman of Auburn.
11 grandchildren and their spouses; Rachel Thatcher, Alex Thatcher, Cristen and Ron Miller, Shawna and Wesley Woodlee, Anna and Brice Kline, Kasandra Dickman, Alyson and Aaron Myers, Adam and Emily (Rupp) Reger, Andrew and Valerie (Lloyd) Reger, Angela Morris and Bryan and Kristie (Chittenden) Dickman.
Sister; Uree Kincaid of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
Brother; Russell Dickman of Milwaukee, Oregon.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Visitation will be held on Monday, December 31, 2018 from 4:00 to 7:00 PM at the Feller and Clark Funeral Home, 1860 South Center Street in Auburn. Additional visitation will be held one hour prior to the celebration of life on Tuesday at the funeral home from 10:00 to 11:00 AM.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Tuesday, January 1, 2019 at 11:00 AM at the Feller and Clark Funeral Home in Auburn. Officiating the celebration of life will be Andy Grimes with the Auburn Church of Christ.
Military Honors will be provided following the celebration of life by the Auburn American Legion Post 97 Honor Guard and active members of the United States Navy.
Memorial donations may be made to the Auburn Area Kiwanis Club.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.fellerandclark.com.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Feller and Clark Funeral Home in Auburn.