Fr. Richard J. Burtschi, who developed technology to help people, died Dec. 8, 2014 in St. Louis after a long illness. He was 79 years old, a Jesuit for 53 years and a priest for 43 years.
He was born Aug. 18, 1935 in Chickasha, Okla., and attended schools in that state before earning a bachelor’s degree in history at Saint Louis University.
He served three years in the U.S. Navy before entering the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Mo., on Sept. 1, 1961.
As a young Jesuit, he taught at Kapaun High School in Wichita, Kan., and progressed to theology studies at Saint Louis University. He was ordained in 1971 and pronounced his final vows in 1982.
Burtschi earned a master’s degree in speech communication at SLU and a doctorate in instructional development at Michigan State University.
He specialized in developing instruments adapted to the human body as well as instruction using technology. He worked for many years on a variable-pitch artificial larynx that would aid communication among those who could not speak.
The Mayo Clinic’s Historical Artifact Collection accepted one of his devices. His work in this area displayed a lifelong desire to use technology to benefit people, whether it was to relieve suffering or simply to make things more efficient.
He taught at SLU and Loyola University in Chicago. He also spent many years in hospital ministry.
Visitation is from 4 to 7 p.m., followed by a funeral Mass at 7 p.m., on Dec. 18 at St. Francis Xavier “College” Church in St. Louis. He will be buried Dec. 19 at a 9 a.m. graveside service at Calvary Cemetery.His brother, Thomas Burtschi, and sister, Judy Maloney, survive him.