Revolutionary War history buff has longstanding career in public relations

Dick Burnon in Englewood. Photo by Simona Gucciardi

By Simona Gucciardi—

In 1780, Revolutionary War Brigadier Gen. Enoch Poor perished suddenly, either by assassination in a Hackensack duel with a subordinate officer or from typhoid fever. Because duels were outlawed, George Washington’s Army may have concealed Poor’s true cause of death. No one is sure.

Dick Burnon, J/MS 1959, probably knows more about Gen. Poor’s death than anyone living. As an amateur historian and prolific writer, Burnon has a piece on Poor in a book, Revolutionary Bergen County: The Road to Independence that was published two years ago.

The chapter by Burnon, titled “The Mysterious Death of Brigadier General Enoch Poor,” follows Gen. Poor’s life and question-filled death.

“The first American cover-up may have not been Watergate,” said Burnon, a retired business writer and public relations executive who resides in Dumont. “It may have been in 1780 with Gen. Enoch Poor’s assassination.

“I’ve been writing about Gen. Poor on and off for more than 50 years,” he added. “We’re sort of joined at the hip.”

After graduating from Rutgers and serving in the military, Burnon became a reporter for the Bergen Record.

He later left the Record to take on a position as associate editor of McGraw-Hill’s monthly business magazine Industrial Distribution.

He traveled a week a month, and his editorial territory included 17 states and part of Canada.

His highlights as an associate editor for McGraw-Hill in­cluded writing about a ride down the Mississippi River with a man named Merdie Boggs and interviewing Major League relief pitcher Hal Woodeshick, who was with the Detroit Tigers, the St. Louis Cardinals and a handful of other teams. Today, Burnon is doing public relations part-time for the Englewood Public Library.

Burnon has spent a lifetime writing news, business stories, historical and travel features.

“I always liked to write, even as a youngster,” recalled Burnon. “I particularly enjoyed writing feature stories on off-beat people.”

He spent 11 years as a writer with Business Abroad, a Dun & Bradstreet publication, and then became managing editor for Geyer’s Dealer Topics, a trade publication for the office equipment and stationery industry. Later Burnon joined the Hertz Corporation’s public relations staff as manager of publications.

“I spent 23 years with Hertz, 18 years in New York City and five years in Park Ridge, NJ, where the corporate headquarters was relocated,” said Burnon. “Then, after doing a good job for 23 years and winning editorial awards for my publications, I was laid off.”

The circumstance led Burnon to stumble into library PR work by accident. The library in Englewood needed someone for part-time PR, and Burnon had all the credentials and skills for the job. After three months, he went full-time.

Burnon was there 16 years, retiring last March as head of Adult Programming and PR. He came back a month later to work part-time, where he promotes and introduces all adult programs at the library and writes press releases about lectures, art exhibits and concerts.

“I’ve enjoyed my 50-plus year writing career,” said Burnon. “I’m enjoying my semi-retirement. I do other things. I belong to three book discussion groups and give talks on a variety of topics in the area.”

Libraries, senior groups and civic groups have heard Burnon speak about Gen. Poor’s story. He also lectures on the controversial presidential election of 1800, which gets to the heart of the Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr political campaigns. When not working, sharpening his history facts or at a book discussion, Burnon celebrates life with his wife of more than 50 years, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

“My wife keeps asking me how long I plan to keep working,” he said. “I’m 75 and feel good. Working keeps me young. Most of my friends are retired. I’m like the Energizer rabbit – I just keep going.”