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William Raymond Burbridge
A pillar of strength and kindness to his family and friends
In Loving Memory
William Raymond Burbridge
18 June 1930 – 3 May 2009
William Raymond Burbridge, long time resident of Pattaya and pioneer
in the scuba diving industry in Thailand, passed away peacefully in his
sleep on 3 May 2009. He was just weeks shy of his 79th birthday on 18 June.
He is survived by his wife Pat, his daughter Cindy and son in law Byron
Funeral services were held at the St. Nikolas Catholic church on 7 May where
Bill was laid to rest at the church cemetery.
For his long years of dedicated service to the Thai community, Bill was
honoured by Her Royal Highness Princess Siriwan Waleenareerat who graciously
presented a wreath engraved with her insignia, a vessel of royal earth and
two ornaments to be interned together with Bill’s remains.
Family and friends from all over Thailand attended the final rites where a
solemn Requiem Mass of Thanksgiving to celebrate Bill’s life was held.
Father Michael Weera Phangrak was Chief Celebrant whilst Pat read passages
from the New Testament.
Eulogies were delivered by Bill’s daughter Cindy and Peter Malhotra an old
friend of the family.
Mourners sang Amazing Grace as Bill was lowered into his final resting place
of peace for all eternity.
Pat Burbridge reads the Holy Gospel.
A pillar of strength and kindness
to his family and friends
Pat called me on Sunday, as I was travelling upcountry by car,
to tell me the sad news that Bill had passed on. As usual the news took
a little time to sink in, so on the drive home, I had a lot of time to
think of Bill and try to recollect the times that we had together
throughout the years that we had known each other.
pays homage to Bill.
But when Pat and Cindy asked me to say a few words at today’s services
the reality sank in. I sat through the Monday evening prayers stunned
and very heartbroken. I suddenly realized that Bill is with us no more.
I met Bill more than 30 years ago when my family first moved to Pattaya.
But my brother Marlowe had known Bill and Pat even before that.
Bill owned and operated the Seafari Dive Centre which was located at the
old Royal Garden, then, a complex of bungalows and a small hotel, which,
a few years earlier had served the US military forces as their R&R
centre with their very own PX and movie theatre.
The first dive was exciting and fascinating as Bill led us to the bottom
of the sea where he showed us incredibly beautiful and unspoilt corals.
He even grabbed a sand shark in his hands to show it off to us before
letting it go free. Yes in those days the sea around Koh Larn was still
very clean and clear.
Whilst underwater I somehow got lost. That’s when one of Bill’s most
important instructions came to mind. “When you get lost, don’t panic…go
up”. I surfaced, looked around and saw Bill about 25 metres from where I
was, waving his arm beckoning me to swim towards him. As I closed in, I
could see Bill’s expression. Even through his friendly yet relieved
smile I could see that he was concerned. But more clearly Bill was
‘slightly’ irritated by the fact that I had broken the safety rules by
separating from the group, which he had so strongly warned could happen
so easily in open sea.
I narrate this story to illustrate the person Bill was throughout his
life. Warm, caring, yet very responsible and strict in his principles.
He could get quite stern if basic rules of life were not adhered to.
This was because he cared for all people and more especially those under
This showed throughout his life. Bill joined the Rotary Club of Pattaya
and later was one of the founding members of the Rotary Club of
Jomtien-Pattaya. Rotary’s ideals fit perfectly with his philosophy and
character. Caring for people especially the underprivileged, furthering
understanding amongst the people of every language, race or creed and by
doing so helping to establish peace in the world.
Bill was a staunch protector of the environment. Throughout his life he
was in the forefront of campaigns to clean up, rejuvenate and protect
the sea. Divers the world over loved and respected him for his
commitment and would enthusiastically travel to Pattaya to assist him in
Bill loved Pattaya, home to his family Pat and Cindy, not to mention
Byron who not only won Cindy’s heart but her parents’ too. He was
passionate about helping Pattaya develop into a world class tourist
destination. He was a founding member of the Skål Club of Pattaya, an
organisation that promotes travel and tourism throughout the world.
Bill was an exacting and an astute businessman. He was a tough
negotiator when making deals, but in the end he was fair to all
Long time friends in Pattaya
In the last few years Bill found new friends at the Pattaya City Expats
Club. On one of my rare visits to the club I saw that Bill was happy
attending the Sunday morning meetings. You gave him love and caring and
a home away from home. For that I admire and thank all of you.
To all who knew him he was a man of strong, just and upright
convictions. His character was as tough as nails and his integrity was
We shall miss you Bill. The pain will subside but the memory will grow
stronger. You will be remembered and honoured for all eternity. May God
receive you in his heart and keep you. May He protect you and soothe
your pain as you have done for others all your life.
In Loving Memory
William Raymond Burbridge
Cindy’s tribute to Daddy.
Cindy Burbridge Bishop
My father, William Raymond Burbridge, was born in 1930 to
Dorothy and William Burbridge in Foxborough, Massachusetts. However, he
preferred to call California home. His early career in military
electronics installation (namely an early defense warning system known
as the Due-line project) took him to far corners of the world, including
Greenland, Turkey, and Greece.
After joining the Philco-Ford Corporation in 1966, he was eventually
assigned to Thailand, where he met my mother, Patricia, who was working
in the same company. His work took him to one last country, Iran, during
which he re evaluated his life goals and returned with the decision to
go into business for himself.
Together forever, Pat, Cindy and Byron.
That business was scuba diving, a hobby which he discovered while in
Turkey and which he taught himself from a mail order catalog and four
page instruction manual. From that early and somewhat scary first solo
dive, his love of diving was ignited and from that day on, he devoted
his life and energy to pursuing his dream of building his own diving
business. With the support of well known hotelier Louis Fassbind, Bill
and Pat Burbridge opened the doors of Seafari Sports Center in the brand
new Pattaya Palace Hotel. The year was 1970.
Bill Burbridge was known as the pioneer of the diving industry in
Thailand. After opening the first dive center in the country, he also
became Thailand’s first PADI Course Director and went on to teach and
certify many of the leading dive instructors in the country. To his
students, colleagues, and customers he was the stern, disciplined,
sometimes overbearing but always knowledgeable and passionate “Big
Bill”. His strong belief in the specific code of conduct and safety
regulations that some may call “Old School” nevertheless paved the way
for the overall high standards in the diving business in Thailand today.
Seafari went on to become one of most reputable and well respected dive
centers in the Southeast Asian region for many years.
A few years ago, Bill finally retired, after years of hard work and long
hours. His body finally started to catch up to his dreams, and he
suffered a few health problems, namely a mini stroke, an onset of
melanoma, which we thankfully caught early and the various other health
concerns that arrive with old age. He would have turned 79 next month.
And in the early hours of this Sunday morning, he passed away peacefully
in his sleep. We had no reason to believe it would happen so suddenly,
but we thank God he went in peace and without pain.
I want to spend a little time talking about what he meant to us. To
friends, old and new, many of you remember him fondly from the yearly
birthday and Christmas parties at our house. As a child, I remember
there was always a group of you huddled around our bar, listening as he
mixed you a cocktail and talked about his adventures in the Arctic, his
escapades in Greece, and the time he was asked by the mayor to
personally escort two visiting US astronauts Conrad and Cooper in his
impressive lavender Cadillac convertible, the only one of its kind in
Athens at the time. These tales were also my own bedtime stories. What
other little girl gets to drift off into sleep hearing of fantastic
Polar Bear hunts, and her Daddy’s very own dog sled team? To more recent
friends of the Expat Club, he was the ever present and loyal Bill, who
showed up every week in his favorite Sunday shirt. In his last years,
those Sundays were something he would really look forward to every week.
Thank you to all of his friends who laughed and argued with him
throughout the years.
To my mother, Bill was her husband and partner for over 30 years. They
met and fell in love at a time when life seemed less complicated and
more carefree. I know I am biased, but I think they were the most
beautiful couple in the world. And when I came along, they both worked
hard to make sure to give me everything I could ever need or want. Every
Christmas, they would go out of their way to make it extra special,
staying up all night to decorate the perfect Christmas tree laden with
all sorts of goodies underneath. I would bounce on their bed at the
crack of dawn full of excitement and eager to rip open the presents they
had only finished wrapping a few hours before, completely oblivious to
their bloodshot eyes. But more than just presents, they gave me the gift
of self-worth, the confidence and courage to be anything I wanted to be,
and do anything I set my mind to. I truly credit all that I have and
everything that I am today to you both.
And lastly to me, he was my Daddy, my big, strong, sometimes scary,
slightly hairy Daddy. Daddy, you taught me never to settle for
second-best. And that it is worth it to fight for what you believe in.
I’ve inherited your stubbornness, your perfectionist attitude and as
Byron knows oh too well, I also have your infamous grumpy temper at
times. But I also have your passion, your faith, and your strong
determination to never give up on your dreams.
So now you’ve gone to sleep. Its time you took your rest, God knows you
deserve it. Know that I love you and hold you in my heart always.
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