Obituary: ‘Doc’ Harold Burton

By Sallie James

BRINY BREEZES — To his South Florida friends and neighbors, “Doc” Harold Burton was a beloved retiree with a cheerful disposition and a sly sense of humor. But nearly eight decades ago, the young veterinarian from Hereford, Maryland, helped keep 960 horses healthy in the middle of Atlantic storms until they reached Gdansk and the Polish farmers struggling to recover from the war.

12239448079?profile=RESIZE_180x180Once a seagoing cowboy who helped transport horses to needy countries after WWII under the auspices of Heifers for Relief, Dr. Burton died on Aug. 31 of undetermined causes at his Abingdon home. He was 102.

“Some of the happiest times of his life were with his friends in Briny,” said his daughter Barbara Abbott.

In 2015, Dr. Burton recalled for a Coastal Star reporter his adventures transporting horses on the high seas.

“The majority of countries like Poland were just countries of small farmers, and they had nothing to farm with,” Burton said in the interview. “The Germans had gone across it one way, and the Russians had gone across the other way, and there was just nothing there.”

On one occasion, he was severely bitten by a horse, so he asked his family doctor if he should become an MD or a DVM.

“Well,” the wise old doctor said, “if you become a physician, the patients lie to you all the time, but if you become a vet, the animals will never lie to you.”

Young Harold Burton became a vet. “And I never did have an animal lie to me,” he said. “The owners sometimes, but never the animals.”

The son of Edmund Burton and Olive Burton, Harold Burton was born in Baltimore and raised in a home at York and Mount Carmel roads in Hereford.

He met his future wife, Betty Duval, while serving as an associate professor at the University of Maryland and the two were married in 1947. They were together 75 years.

Doc and Betty Burton began visiting her parents, Hazel and Claiborne Duval, in Briny Breezes around 1960. They became shareholders when they purchased lot L-16 from her mother.

Years later the couple known as “Trouble” and “Saint Betty” moved to a different lot to make room for a dog and grandchildren.

Dr. Burton was also a frequent prankster who attended any meeting where donuts and coffee were served. He belonged to several clubs and organizations that were dear to his heart.

He graduated from Sparks High School in 1938 and then attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore before earning a degree in veterinary medicine in 1943 from the University of Pennsylvania.

Eventually he purchased the Towson Veterinary Hospital on York Road. Dr. Burton sold his practice in 1978, went into semi-retirement and finally retired from veterinary medicine in 1980.

Services were at Evans Funeral Chapel in Monkton, with interment at the Hereford Baptist Church Cemetery, a few steps from his boyhood home.

In addition to his wife, Dr. Burton is survived by two sons, Russell W. Burton of Jacobus, Pennsylvania, and Paul M. Burton of Hagerstown; two daughters, Barbara B. Abbott of Lutherville and Patricia B. Bowden of Hanover, Pennsylvania; and three grandchildren.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this obituary.

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