Senator Greg Boso, far right, helped members of the Burner family of Cass dedicate the Cass bridge in the memory of Euguene Lee “Gene” Burner. Above, Boso is joined by Burner’s granddaughter, Alison Flegel, and daughter, Louise Burner. B. Nottingham photo

Brandon Nottingham
Staff Writer

A small group of people gathered with Senator Greg Boso at the Cass Bridge Friday to hear stories from the Burner family and for a dedication ceremony for the Eugene Lee “Gene” Burner Memorial Bridge.

Louise Burner and her daughter, Alison Flegel, began writing letters three years ago to get this project started.

“My mom did most of the work in the beginning,” Flegel said. “Then after a year or so, one of our cousins, Tom Kincaid, took over. He really got the ball rolling and is an amazing person.”

It was Kincaid who contacted Boso asking for help with the project.

After three years of writing and waiting, the Burner’s dream finally came true.

Boso got the bill signed which made the name change official. Taking it one step further, Boso came to Cass Friday to read Senate Concurrent Resolution #43 at the dedication.

“This was adopted by the Legislature on April 6, 2017,” Boso said. “Requesting the Division of Highways to name the bridge number 38-66-11.62, locally known as Cass Bridge, carrying WV 66 over the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County, the Eugene Lee ‘Gene’ Burner Memorial Bridge. Whereas Eugene Lee ‘Gene’ Burner was born on May 1, 1919, and raised in Durbin, West Virginia, the son of Dr. Allen Eugene Burner and Mabel Wilson Burner, and whereas Gene attended the Durbin Grade School and Green Bank High School before attending West Virginia University and earning a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Physics. Gene worked as a research physicist and instrument engineer at the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Morgantown, West Virginia, for many years until his retirement in 1975. During his time at the Bureau of Mines, Gene helped develop a process for the gasification of coal that has greatly contributed to improving West Virginia’s coal and energy industries. After raising three children in Morgantown, Gene and his beloved wife, Bonnie Pugh Burner, moved back to Pocahontas County in 1975.

“While in Pocahontas County, Gene worked to restore the old white farmhouse on Burner Hill near Cass, which was originally constructed in the early 1900s by Gene’s uncle. Gene was also an active member of his community. Always a talented pianist and tenor soloist, Gene played the piano and organ at three churches in the area, in Cass, Durbin and Arbovale – sometimes all on the same day. Gene also lent his musical talents to weddings and funerals, often with his mother and his second wife, Louise Shears Burner. Gene further demonstrated his commitment to his community by serving on the boards of Methodist churches in the area and the Arbovale Cemetery. His focus on expanding and maintaining the buildings and grounds of local churches and cemeteries continues to enhance the lives of people within the communities of Pocahontas County. Of particular note, Gene supported and actively worked with other citizens and groups to ensure that grave markers for some of Pocahontas County’s pioneers and most notable citizens were accurately marked and well preserved. Gene’s interests and talent also extended to history and genealogy. Before and after Gene’s return to Pocahontas County, he preformed extensive research on his family’s history and his ancestors’ connection to the town of Cass and other lumber towns in Pocahontas County. Gene was an active contributor to the Pocahontas County Historical Society, providing pictures that he discovered during his research and taking photographs of historical buildings in the region, including former one-room schoolhouses and churches. Gene also loved making and capturing memories anywhere he went. He was a fixture at civic events, cakewalks, school activities, sporting events and class and family reunions, always bringing a camera, a light meter and tripod in tow. Gene loved to socialize with family and friends, but also never failed to memorialize events with candid shots and group photos. His extensive files of negatives is truly a treasure, providing a pictorial narrative of the life, culture and history of the people of Pocahontas County, West Virginia.

“On August 6, 2008, Gene passed away, thirty-three years after his return to Pocahontas County. Despite his passing, Gene has left an indelible mark on Pocahontas County and the State of West Virginia, not just through his good work and deeds, but through his love for his community and the way in which he touched the lives of everyone that knew him. For these reasons and more, it is fitting to erect a sign memorializing Gene and his life well-lived; therefore, be it resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia, that the Division of Highways is requested to name bridge number 38-66-11.62, locally known as Cass Bridge, carrying WV 66 over the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County, the Eugene Lee ‘Gene’ Burner Memorial Bridge, and be it further resolved that the Commissioner of the Division of Highways is hereby requested to have made and be placed signs identifying the bridge as the Eugene Lee ‘Gene’ Burner Memorial Bridge.”

The new signs were placed on both ends of the bridge, and bring with them a certain remembrance.