Charles Edward McBurney III was born to Charles Edward and Eleanor McBurney in November of 1923, in Wilmington, Illinois. His family nicknamed him CE, and he used this name throughout his life.
He attended elementary education in Peoria, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa. His hobbies were model railroading, swimming, diving, kayaking, and water skiing. As a teenager, he was an adventurer: he built his own boat and used it to explore the Mississippi islands near Davenport. He graduated high school from St. Ambrose Academy in 1941, where he studied art with the world-renowned Father Edward Catich, who fostered CE’s gifts in art and calligraphy.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army in WWII and trained at camp Roberts in Paso Robles, California. He served three years abroad in Africa, Italy, France, and Germany as a truck and tank mechanic. He continued his studies during the war, receiving math homework from Fr. Ratz that he prepared by candlelight from a fox hole in Italy. Some of his children studied with the same professor when they attended St. Ambrose College in the 1980’s.
After returning from the war, CE earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University in 1948. His first employment as an electrical engineer was with the Eastern Iowa Light and Power Cooperative, Wilton, Iowa: a multi-county electric utility, designing transmission and distribution lines and high voltage substations for the purpose of electrifying farms in Eastern Iowa. His duties also included inspecting power lines as a passenger in a smaller propellor plane, likely fostering his passion for the song “Wichita Lineman”.
He married Ilo M. Pfeiffer in 1953 in Davenport, Iowa. Their children are Charles III (Karen, Blackfoot, ID), James (Bettendorf, IA), Ann (Brian, Seattle, WA), Paul (Di, Palo Alto, CA), and Marilyn (Marcus, Mequon, WI), eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren. The young couple first resided in Iowa City, IA, where CE went on to earn his Master of Arts Degree in Labor and Industrial Management from the University of Iowa in 1955.
His employment moved next to Gulf and Western's Eagle Signal Division where he designed traffic control systems and wrote and illustrated US patent applications for their traffic control systems. He often shared his passion and wonder for traffic signal timing with his children on family drives and inspired his children towards entrepreneurship and invention. He later enjoyed participating in the Quad City’s Inventor’s Club.
His final professional employment was with the US Army Industrial Engineering Activity, Rock Island, IL, coordinating electronics projects for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. He assisted the government support of leading-edge technology companies around the US, helping them to grow the nascent semi-conductor industry.
He was also a self-taught architect and businessman. The family purchased a lot in Davenport and CE designed and managed the construction of three multi-unit apartment buildings. Here he taught his children the value of hard work, ingenuity, and provided for his children’s braces and education.
Charles has been a faithful parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Bettendorf, Iowa for 60 years, and a member of the choir most of that time. Charles loved to sing and had a beautiful voice.
CE passed on August 18, 2022 - three months shy of his 99th birthday. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife Ilo (2020), parents Charles and Eleanor, brothers Robert and Jean, and daughter in law, Connie McBurney (Chuck). Funeral Services and a Mass of Christian Burial will be11:00am Tuesday, August 30, 2022, at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Bettendorf. The family will greet friends at church Tuesday from 10:00am until the time of the service. Charles will be laid to rest at the Rock Island National Cemetery on Arsenal Island. Memorials are to McAnthony’s Window and Humility Homes and Services. Halligan-McCabe-DeVries Funeral Home is assisting the family with arrangements.