By Greg Gielczyk

MUSKEGON–His Dad got him started in officiating, and 46 years later, Jeff Burr was recognized by the Michigan High School Athletic Association for 45 years of service.

It truly has been a family affair.

Ralph Burr officiated for 53 years and passed in September of last year a week before his 85th birthday. He left behind a legacy to youth sports, and was the founder of both the Port City Boys Club and the East Muskegon Little League programs.

Jeff’s sister, Jacklyn is still an active game official and has been making the calls for 30 years.

Ralph Burr partnered with his daughter to umpire softball games for 23 years.

Meanwhile, brother Joe also has 30 years in while his son, and Ralph’s grandson and Jeff’s nephew, Joe II, is a young pup with just 5 years under his belt.

Three generations of the Burr family – Ralph, Jeff, Joe and Joe II – worked a football game together when they officiated the contest between Muskegon Heights and Oakridge on Aug. 26, 2011.

“It’s nice when you can tell your dad he’s wrong,” said Jeff, laughingly.

Jeff spans the seasons, officiating football, wrestling and baseball.

He was supposed to receive the MHSAA service award at the MHSAA banquet, but that was canceled last year because of COVID-19 and Burr chose to receive his at the football playoffs, along with 24 other recipients who joined him at the game.

“My father started officiating in the mid 60s,” Jeff Burr said. “I’m the oldest of seven children. So I think, one he needed the money, and two, he wanted to get out of the house.

“Eventually, as dad progressed in his career, and as myself, brother and sister became of age, it was just a natural outlet for us to follow and start working with him.

“All of us kids got the opportunity to umpire Little League baseball and be part of that program. My family is still involved with the Little League.”

Jacklyn is the league president, while the nephews umpire to keep the family tradition alive.

Ralph Burr, a member of the Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame for his service, officiated two girls Little League World Series on the West Coast.

For his part, Jeff officiated two wrestling regionals – individual and team – last year.

“I have yet to get a state finals selection, but I’m getting closer, I think, in wrestling,” Burr said.

Burr also is involved with the Muskegon Sports Officials Association as the wrestling trainer. He meets with the wrestling officials once a month to go over rules and recruit new officials.

How did he gravitate to officiating wrestling?

“I wrestled in high school, and when I went to Central Michigan, officiating was a way to make some money on the side,” Burr said. “I lived on campus and could walk over to Mt. Pleasant High School.

“At that time, wrestling was still very popular,” he said. “That’s really where I got started. Dad being an official, it was sort of him steering me as well. He said I could come home at semester break and work around town.”

Burr just finished his 35th year officiating football.

“Dad had a guy that had to take a job out of town and couldn’t do the games anymore, so I got recruited,” Jeff said. “I got lucky and was able to walk in and work varsity right from the very beginning. Which is kind of different. There was a need and it helped that your Dad was the boss. I hope he wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I was capable of doing it.

“Like any first-year guy, you have your fun with it,” he said. “All in all, I haven’t had any real problems with any parents or anything. You hear the stuff from the crowd and the stands, but to say that I’ve ever had anyone confront me, or get ugly with me … it’s never happened.”

At 65, Burr says he has no plans to retire. He has 8 more years to catch his father and hopes to do so before he hangs up his whistle.