John Milton Burghorn III was born June 17, 1946 in Lafayette, Indiana, to John Milton Burghorn, Jr. and Florence (Vander Ploeg) Burghorn. John graduated from Klondike High School and joined the U.S. Navy in 1964.
During his teen years, John spent his summers working at the Vander Ploeg family farm in Otley, Iowa, and his grandparents’ estate in Augusta, Michigan, which began his love of the outdoors.
John devoted more than 28 years to serving his country, first serving on active duty for 10 years in the Navy until 1975. He served aboard Poseidon submarines as an instrumentation technician and electronics technician. During his early military years, sons Michael Todd (1969) and John Paul (1971) were born.
John later attended Navy Drug Abuse Counselor School and was instrumental in opening the Navy’s first drug counseling center at Naval Station, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It was there that he met Millie in 1973, whose first tour of duty happened to be at the same counseling center. They married on May 17, 1974, in the Navy Chapel, Pearl Harbor.
John remained on active duty until October 1975 when Millie was transferred to the Washington, D.C. area, stationed at the Pentagon. John then attended Northern Virginia Community College and George Mason University while starting a home burglar alarm business.
They moved to the Vander Ploeg family farm in Otley in June 1979, and built a berm home. Daughter Kristen Marie, was born in Pella on April 24, 1988. John then joined the Iowa Army National Guard, both as civilian employee and reservist and served another 18 years in service to his country. John retired from the National Guard reserves in 2004, but continued to work as a civilian employee until his medical retirement in 2006. During his years of military service, John received many honors and awards, most notably, the Governor’s award.
John’s faith walk began at the Otley Reformed Church when daughter Kristen was young and encouraged her family to attend church, like her friends did. Pastor Dave and Nancy Hensley encouraged John and Millie to attend many Navigator 2:7 Bible studies and memorize what seemed like an insurmountable number of verses! They completed seven studies, only going on to the next study when all verses were recited word for word. Memorizing scripture verses was hard for John, but he never gave up! Once he had finally memorized the verses, he could always recite them, and often shared them with friends and family in their time of need. Good friends joined with Pastor Dave to encourage his faith walk.
The leadership and friendship of Pastor Vance and Julie Elzinga provided more guidance as he traveled the journey of being a “newcomer” to the Christian faith. Although he was diagnosed with probable ALS in 2006, this slowly progressing form of a motor neuron disease didn’t dampen his appetite to learn more as he read a new version of the Bible every year.
John and Millie moved to Pella in 2014, but the farm still remains in the family. John loved driving to the farm, doing target practice, and spending time outdoors. He looked for any excuse to go to the farm, but many think it was just another excuse to go on a drive with his “furry best friend”, Harvey. John loved going on walks, watching the birds and deer, and working on any project outdoors.
John’s fight ended in the early morning hours of May 27, 2021, at the Comfort House in Pella surrounded by his wife, daughter and pastor.
John will be dearly missed by friends and family, but was met by many friends as he entered his Heavenly home.
John is survived by his wife, Amelia “Millie”
Son Michael Todd of Lafayette, Indiana
Son John Paul “JP” and Jennifer of Lafayette, Indiana
Joscelyn and Keith Luebcke
Kaiden, Katherine, Cecilia
Daughter Kristen Marie of Pella, Iowa
Sister Susan Dwyer Burghorn of Essaouira, Morocco
Brother James Burghorn and Arnell of California
Jason & Heather
Sister Grace Marie Incollingo of Ventura, California
John was preceded in death by his parents, John Milton Burghorn, Jr. and Florence Burghorn.
Calvary Christian Reformed Church
408 Maple Street, Pella IA 50219
Paralyzed Veterans of America
210 E Walnut St #1073, Des Moines IA 50309
3636 Westown Parkway, Suite 204, West Des Moines IA 50266