Ernest Edward Burcher

Ernest Edward Burcher of Yorktown, Virginia, died September 9, 2023, at the age of 94. He is survived by his daughter Dorothy James and son-in-law Ronald of Yorktown, VA; his son Ernest Burcher and daughter-in-law Shelley of Hayes, VA; two grandchildren: Erin Whitman (Michael) and Kelsey Manilla (Danny); and three great-grandchildren: Seth Whitman, Kayla Whitman, and Wolfgang Burcher (and his mother Jordan Shropshire.)

He was preceded in death by his parents, Ernest Stafford and Louise Owens Burcher; his brother, Cecil O. Burcher; his sister, Dorothy Reynolds; and his grandson, Kyle Burcher. He lost his beloved wife, Libby, in 1998 and never stopped missing her.

He graduated from Morrison (Warwick County) High School. He served in the US Army, 8th Infantry, Fort Jackson, from 1950 to 1952. He entered the NACA Apprentice School in 1953, and upon graduation in 1957, he immediately began work at what is now NASA. He worked at Langley Research Center either directly for NASA or contracted to NASA until 2006. He liked to say that he “retired at 55”. That would be 55 years of government service.

During his career at NASA, he designed and built electro-optical instruments for flight and laboratory research. His work contributed to the Viking Lander and the Space Shuttles. In the latter part of his career, he designed instruments to collect data via aircraft, measuring water quality and coastal zone vegetation over large areas. His name is on six patents, 22 technical papers, and journal publications.  One of those patents was an instrument to assist researchers in mapping and studying cleft palate deformities in children. 

In addition to many awards and recognitions for achievement on specific projects at Langley, he was awarded a NASA Exceptional Service Award in 1976 at NASA Headquarters. One colleague had this to say about him: “His unique skills for turning vague ideas into working reality quickly and correctly were invaluable…Without Eddie, the test setups would have been twice the cost….five times as long, half as thorough.”

He could design and build anything, fix anything, modify and improve everything. If he needed an unobtainable part, he would fabricate it in his workshop. Saturdays were for projects in the workshop, projects for his family, and also for his many friends; Libby never knew how many sandwiches to prepare for Saturday lunches. He built a Chesapeake Bay Deadrise and spent many hours fishing and hosting family outings on the Warwick and James Rivers. He designed and built, by his own hand, the house his children called home.

He loved his family, including the huge extended family of uncles and cousins and nieces and nephews. He found special delight in his great-grandchildren. He loved local history, his tools, the games of golf and bridge, and Virginia Tech sports. His bookshelf still holds well-used technical works on optics, materials, math, and physics.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, September 16, 3:00 p.m. at Peninsula Community Chapel, 4209 Big Bethel Road, Yorktown, VA 23693. Visitation will be before the service at 2:00 p.m. Burial will be private.

Arrangements are under the care of Peninsula Funeral Home, 11144 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601.


  1. Kristi Buckman

    Mr. Burcher was a fine man, a true gentleman. I loved his smile, kindness and concern for others, and his sense of humor which was made his eyes twinkle when he joked. I am going to miss him and consider it an honor to have known him.

  2. Pam Comodeca

    I enjoyed talking with Mr. Burcher when I’d be at your house, Dottie. I enjoyed hearing about whatever he & Ron were working on in his workshop. Such a special man. My Dad really enjoyed golfing with your Dad. I’m glad we brought the two of them together.

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