A Gentle Giant is Remembered

By Tina Caparella


People come and go in our lives, some leaving their imprint for just a fleeting moment, others for a lifetime. One person who left his mark on this earth in so many ways is Frank Burnham, Render’s first editor and publisher, who died April 21, 2010, at the age of 86. As the rendering family mourns his passing, we remember an individual who truly had an impact on the industry, the aerospace world, and his family.

Render is what it is today thanks to Frank. In 1972, the Pacific Coast Renderers Association (PCRA) took on the task of expanding its newsletter to an industry publication. Frank stepped up to the plate, creating Render – The Magazine of Rendering and becoming its editor. A few years later, he also assumed the duties as publisher, serving in both capacities for 26 years until his retirement due to health reasons in 1996.

“He did the rendering industry a great amount of good with the establishment of Render and the dedication that he had to the magazine,” recalled Ray Kelly, formerly with Baker Commodities, who was there when Frank took the helm at Render and worked closely with him throughout the years.

Not knowing anything about rendering but being an award winning journalist, Frank learned the industry quickly and delved into such topics that first year as the industry’s economic impact on the U.S. gross national product, the big business of beef, how renderers can be good environmental neighbors, and the wonderful world of tallow. Accolades of praise were bestowed on PCRA and Frank as Render reached out to the far corners of the rendering and affiliated industries. Comments such as “you’re doing the industry a great service” to “anyone who had a hand in putting it all together deserves a pat on the back” graced the pages of Render that first year.

The publishing world recognized Render’s accomplishments twice under Frank’s watch. In 1977 and 1978, the Western Publications Association awarded its “Maggie” to Render for best agriculture and farm magazine. The publication was becoming such an integral part of the U.S. rendering industry, it was decided in October 1977 to re-label it “the national magazine of rendering.”

Render saw another leap forward in July 1979 when sponsorship was assumed by the National Renderers Association (NRA), expanding the magazine’s scope of coverage and initiating the industry’s yearly market report and NRA membership directory in each April issue. Frank was instrumental in this expansion and remained Render’s top leader as well as its chief photographer, a hobby that proved reputable over and over again throughout the pages of the magazine.

Another accomplishment for Frank and the industry was the publishing of Rendering – The Invisible Industry in 1978. Never before had a book been written on “the invisible industry” and Frank had made up his mind that “such a book must be written.” So with the “support and confidence” of the PCRA and rendering leaders Dick Ellis, Louis Ottone, Bill O’Donnell, George Cator, and Ray Kelly, Frank published that first book with the hope that future scholars and writers “may be motivated to give this industry the editorial attention it deserves.” Since then, two more rendering books have emerged by other authors – The Original Recyclers in 1996 and Essential Rendering in 2006.

“Frank served NRA well,” said Dr. Don Franco, former vice president of the National Renderers Association (NRA) Scientific Services. “His sincerity and his sense of dedication I would always remember. I thought the world of him. During my first convention after joining NRA, he took the time to provide me with valuable background information. I appreciated that to the utmost.”

While Render may have been Frank’s final hurrah before his retirement, it was by no means his first venture into the publishing world.

Frank was a veteran newspaperman, aerospace editor, book author, and accomplished pilot. He began his writing career editing a newspaper for his Army Air Force Unit, the 356th Bomb Group, on the island of Guam in the closing months of World War II. Upon returning to civilian life in his hometown of Jamestown, NY, he became a cub reporter on the Jamestown Post-Journal and later, aviation editor for the Buffalo Evening News.

It was in Buffalo, NY, he first became familiar with Civil Air Patrol (CAP), an auxiliary to the U.S. Air Force, and became an active member. He eventually returned to Jamestown to become Chautauqua County Bureau Chief for the news and formed that city’s first CAP squadron.

Recalled to active military duty during the Korean War, Frank edited several military publications and, at the conclusion of hostilities, remained with the Air Force, becoming one of a handful of military information officers who pioneered in editorial coverage of the beginning space age. He served 14 years with the Department of Defense working in the missile program, concluding his government career at the Los Angeles Air Force Base.

In 1967, Frank returned to civilian life and over the next five years served as an editor on several national magazines published by American Aviation – Space Technology, Armed Forces Management, American Aviation, Airline Marketing, and Aerospace Daily. He received a national space writing award given by the Aviation/Space Writers Association, and authored three other books, Hero Next Door, about the CAP, Cleared to Land, the story of the Federal Aviation Administration, and Aerial Search, the CAP Story.

Frank was a pilot and airplane owner with over 4,000 hours in some 34 military and civilian aircraft types ranging from Piper Cubs to single-engine jets. He remained involved in CAP throughout his life, eventually became a commander, leading search and rescue missions for downed civilian aircraft either from the skies or at the command center on the ground. Frank also was a talented master of ceremonies for civilian air shows across the West coast.

Frank was preceded in death by his wife, Hazel, and is survived by four daughters, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

In his final days on this earth, Frank reminisced with his oldest daughter about his life. Favorite places he lived, the pets he adored, and the people he cherished were all remembered with fondness. When asked what his favorite job had been, he did not hesitate to announce it was working on Render and with the rendering industry.

It makes me proud to share that feeling with Frank, as my career with Render – which began as billing advertisers in the late 1970s, to associate editor in 1990, to editor in 1996 – has been my favorite as well. It also makes me proud to call Frank my grandfather, a man I am grateful to for leaving his mark on my life and the lives of so many others.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. You will forever remain in our hearts.


Newsline – June 2010 RENDER | back