Fishing 14

Gregory Burdette

July 12, 1966 ~ October 26, 2020 (age 54)


It could be hard to get a straight answer out of Greg Burdette.

He was a smart aleck in the best sense of the word, and he used his quick wit to help people find the humor in difficult situations and the path to a meaningful life.

Gregory D. Burdette, 54, of Champaign, IL passed away at home, Oct. 26, 2020, unexpectedly after a quiet dinner with his wife, Rhonda Kirts, who survives along with their two daughters, Lena and Rachel, also of Champaign.

His mother, Alice of Pinellas Park, FL and his sister, Lynn (Ray Raulerson) Collins of Largo, FL., and many other relatives survive. He was preceded in death by his father, Dean, brother, Kyle (Kim) Burdette, Uncles Ed Dryer and Terry Burdette, Aunts Donna Jackson and Judy Chumbley, and cousins Dustin Anderson and Brian Chumbley.

Greg was born in Champaign, a son of Dean and Alice (Dryer) Burdette. He grew up in Paxton, IL, where he participated in just about every sport available: swimming, basketball, baseball, bowling, football (which garnered interest from some college coaches), and boxing (which did not).

On summer days, he was often seen riding his bicycle from Paxton to Rantoul, where he worked as a lifeguard at Chanute Air Force Base. He would often stop and have lunch at his grandma’s house on the way to the pool.

Greg studied engineering at SIU Carbondale, where he had fun times with his sister and other student lifeguards. After graduation, Greg joined Campus Recreation as the Assistant Director of Aquatics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1991. That’s where he met Rhonda, who worked in the Office of the Dean of Students. They began dating when he invited her to join his employee bowling league team, and they won the league championship. Their first date was a walk through the U of I arboretum, and they enjoyed spending time outdoors together. One of Greg’s joys was to just sit and be quiet together with Rhonda.

They married on July 27, 1996, and within a few years Lena and Rachel completed the family. Greg loved to take his girls fishing, even though they both were afraid to bait their hooks and touch the fish they caught and Greg often teased Rachel about scaring the fish away with her constant chatter.

Greg held various positions with Campus Recreation at the Ice Arena and with Information Technology.  After 25 years, he left there to manage Foellinger Auditorium, where he worked until his death.

Greg was fond of all his student employees and the valuable lessons they taught each other. They knew him as a caring leader, who wanted them to have the opportunity to learn and grow. Greg was an expert at instilling a work ethic in those around him because he was so very good at helping people understand why their work really mattered.  

He enjoyed attending his daughters’ academic, music, and theater events and coaching their basketball, softball, and volleyball teams. Most important, he taught Lena and Rachel to be humble when they won and to be gracious when they lost.

Greg loved going on fishing trips with friends and attending the Indianapolis 500 with his friends and father. Greg was one of those very rare human beings who never expected anything in return for his kindness. And that is why so many people, in so many unlikely and unusual places, valued his friendship so much. They will remember him as a man who got things done, who would patiently teach others how to do things, who would do anything for anyone who needed him, who was always kept his promises, who could make everyone laugh with his quick and sharp wit, and who loved his wife and daughters more than anything in the world.

A private service will be held for family. A celebration of life will occur at a later date due to COVID restrictions. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the University of Illinois Emergency Dean Fund ( or Special Olympics (

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