Nineteen years, seven months, 29 days and 18 hours, almost exactly, is when the timer stopped.
Oregon State Police Sgt. John Burright’s brother, Dave Burright, kept a timer running on a phone application with the starting time as the accident that left John, the toughest person Dave has ever met, paralyzed. The timer stopped last week when John died at age 61 in the Mennonite Village in Albany.
“What he’d gone through was just horrific,” Dave said. “And yet, in all that time, he was still able to smile and take the best of what was happening."
Dave’s timer started the night of Sept. 4, 2001, a day that lives in infamy for many in the mid-valley. A severe car wreck left John paralyzed and killed Albany Police Officer Jason Hoerauf, 29, and Oregon State Police Trooper Maria Mignano, 39, as the law enforcement personnel worked to help a family with a broken down van.
John is remembered by those close to him as a loving father of three and husband, a sports fanatic, athlete and a man dedicated to his profession.
“His family meant everything to him,” Dave said.
Jim Yon, the current Linn County Sheriff, is married to Dave and John’s cousin Angie and he’s known the family for decades. Yon said John had a sharp sense of humor, and liked to poke at his older brother Dave when he had the chance.
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“I was working for (John’s) brother Dave at the time, Sheriff Burright, and John would openly recruit me to try to come to Oregon State Police in front of Dave,” Yon said of family gatherings in the early days of his marriage. “He was mostly kidding because he knew it would bother Dave, but that’s just the relationship they had.”
Yon said that while two people died the day of the accident, the community lost three members of law enforcement. Yon said he believed John, a “perfectionist” with a focus on “doing the right thing,” was on track to become the superintendent of OSP. John’s supervisor at the time, Andy Olson, echoed Yon’s sentiment about John’s skill on the job.
“It was in his blood because that’s the Burright family,” Olson, also a former state representative, said. “He was a very smart individual. He enjoyed serving the public and he was a good leader. There’s no doubt in my mind … he would’ve not stopped moving upward.”
Olson said he was involved in the first push for the Fallen Officer Memorial Highways in Oregon, which included a sign in I-5 honoring Hoerauf and Mignano. Olson hopes to add John’s name to the sign soon to honor him.
K. Rambo can be contacted at 541-812-6091 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter via @k_rambo_.