Carl “Jimmy” Burrill, a Westbrook resident well-known for his devotion to baseball in the area, died of a heart attack Friday at the age of 71.

Mr. Burrill’s lifelong passion for the sport was shaped by his trip to the 1951 Little League World Series in Pennsylvania with the Suburban All-Stars team.

“He had a deep, abiding respect for baseball and how to play the game,” said Don Douglas, who was coached by Mr. Burrill for six years in the 1960s.

Douglas, who later coached alongside Mr. Burrill, described him as a very intense, enthusiastic and self-taught coach who worked from instinct.

“The quality that stands out more than anything is how passionate he was about doing what he could to make sure the game was played correctly,” Douglas said. “That’s what made him such a great coach.”

A lifelong resident of Westbrook, Mr. Burrill grew up an only child. His wife, Ellen Burrill, said that when he was young, Mr. Burrill asked Santa Claus for a baby brother every year for Christmas. the time he was 10, she said, he told Santa “he didn’t care if it was a baby brother or baby sister.”

She said Mr. Burrill was thrilled when he married her because she came from a large family. “On our wedding day, he told me he found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow because now he had brothers and sisters,” she said.

Mr. Burrill was devoted to his family and friends. “A lot of people don’t know the tender, compassionate, caring side of Jim,” his wife said.

In the neighborhood where the couple lived, Mr. Burrill took a walk every morning. His wife said he would pick up his neighbor’s newspaper from the delivery tube and bring it to the doorstep.

“If the paper wasn’t delivered to the door,” she said, “sometimes we’d get a phone call and they’d ask, ‘What’s wrong with Coach today?’” to which she would reply, “I wouldn’t let him out to play.”

When it came to his family, Mr. Burrill never missed a sporting event or an important moment, said his niece, Maria Colvin Profenno. “He was the first one there and the last one to leave,” she said.

Mr. Burrill was a proud grandfather of seven grandchildren and was active in his great-nieces’ and great-nephews’ lives. “They were absolutely the love of his life,” his wife said.

When golden dollar coins were minted in 2000, Mr. Burrill bought them and often handed them out to the younger children in the family. His niece said the coins were often given when least expected, and he never made a big deal about it.

“He’d slip it to them,” she said. “It was like shake the hand and walk out the door, and oh, there’s a gold coin in my hand now.”

His wife said someone once told her that Mr. Burrill had a tender heart beneath a tough facade.

His niece said, “Anyone that was a part of his life would tell you he took care of them, whether it was a friend, family or co-worker.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]