SIKESTON, MO -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association reports that NAMA chairman emeritus Billy Morgan (Bill) Burch died here on March 18. He was 78.
Burch worked in the vending industry for more than 40 years. A 1957 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University and a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve from 1953 through 1962, he went to work for Coca-Cola Co. as a manager in 1964.
He joined a local vending firm, Dale Vendors, in 1973 and bought the company four years later. Renamed Burch Food Services, it went on to become one of the largest independently owned foodservice and vending operations in the country. The organization, which partnered with Canteen Corp. in 2000, serves parts of five states with eight branch operations. Burch served as chairman of the organization's board until his death.
Long active in industry affairs, Burch served four terms as president of the Missouri Automatic Merchandising Association (now the Mid-America Automatic Merchandising Association, both NAMA affiliated state councils) and led a number of initiatives designed to assure equitable legislative and regulatory treatment for the vending industry. He was elected chairman of NAMA in 1997.
Burch also was deeply involved in civic activities. Joining the Sikeston Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1961, he won the Jaycee Distinguished Service Award in 1969 and was named Man of the Year by the Sikeston Chamber of Commerce in 1988. He was a charter member of the Sikeston Development Council, a member of the Cerebral Palsy Board and a regular contributor to the Sikeston Area Food Bank.
Elected to the Sikeston City Council in 1983 and reelected in 1986, Burch served two terms as mayor. He was a chairman of the Scott County Democratic Party and became a member of the National Democratic Party's Rules Committee in 1984. He also was chairman of the National Antique Tractor Pullers Association (Columbus, OH ) and a skilled pilot.
"Bill was a wonderful leader who created a meaningful legacy in the industry," said Dan Mathews, executive vice president and chief operating officer of NAMA. "He combined professional success with a commitment to give back to the communities where he did business and, most importantly, he was devoted to his family, as well. He will certainly be missed."
Burch is survived by his wife Suzanne, son Steven, daughter Becky Newman, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Contributions to honor his memory may be made to the First Baptist Church of Sikeston, 1101 N. Main, Sikeston, MO 63801 or the Missouri Delta Medical Center Foundation, 1008 N. Main, Sikeston, MO 63801.