WHEELING – Law enforcement brought Tom Burgoyne to Wheeling and Ohio County. He chose to stay and make a long, accomplished life here.
Burgoyne, a former Ohio County Sheriff, retired FBI agent and Wheeling community leader passed away Thursday. He was 82.
Burgoyne was a native of Lancaster, Massachusetts, whose FBI career brought him to Wheeling. He would meet his late wife Kathy in Wheeling and put down roots.
He was known as a larger-than-life figure who always wore a smile and had a kind word. He was a fixture in the Dimmeydale community, known for coaching youngsters and also for his involvement with the Dimmeydale Fourth of July Parade.
Burgoyne spent 39 years in law enforcement, both with the FBI and then as Ohio County’s sheriff. He served his community as a leader, a mentor and a coach to young men and women.
His work with youth most recently was honored when Youth Services Systems named him its 2021 Good Samaritan – then planted a red maple tree is his honor at YSS’ Samaritan House shelter.
He was respected and loved by all who had the privilege to know him. His dedication and service to both law enforcement and the local community are unmatched.
As an FBI agent, Burgoyne spent the early part of his career in Boston before a short stint in Miami and Pittsburgh before coming to Wheeling. He put down roots here starting in the late 1960s, choosing Wheeling because of the quality of life it offered as where he would raise his family.
Former U.S. Attorney William Kolibash of Wheeling knew Burgoyne for 50 years, working with him over much of that time. He said he first started working with Burgoyne in 1973 when Kolibash was hired as an assistant U.S. Attorney and the two continued both a personal and professional relationship ever since.
“One of the major cases that we worked on was the Paul Hankish investigation. Tom was excellent in delivering the important facts of the case, dealing with witnesses and helping us to prosecute,” Kolibash recalled. “I had almost daily close contact with Tom for more than 20 years. He was a great investigator.
“But Tom was so much more than just an FBI agent or a sheriff. … He loved interacting with and teaching kids, and he loved getting out in the community. One of the things we always had a laugh over was how much he loved having his picture in the newspaper, or being on television. We played basketball together, softball. … There are so many little things that you get to know about someone over the course of 50 years.”
Kolibash said Burgoyne was among the best of us.
“Tom was a complete person, a real asset to the community. Most people think of Tom and his time in the FBI, or his time as sheriff. But he was so much more than that,” he said. “He’s certainly the kind of person that made this community a better place to live for us all.”
Former U.S. Attorney William Wilmoth recalled Burgoyne as an excellent investigator and an even better trial witness in cases they worked together.
“Tom was a tall, good-looking guy, and he still had a little hint of that Boston accent. And I would put him on the stand every time I got a chance. He would look at me and listen to my question. And then he would turn to the jury and tell them the answer. And they were mesmerized because he was just such a wonderful, wonderful guy,” he said.
“We had a series of cases from Hancock County that involved charges of political corruption. And I had Tom on the stand and a high-powered criminal defense attorney from Pittsburgh said to me, I think in jest, that he thought that it was some sort of constitutional violation for me to always put Tom Burgoyne on the witness stand. And he said that the reason that there must be some kind of constitutional violation is that he would measure up his client for an orange jumpsuit the minute he saw Tom go to the stand. That’s how effective he was.”
U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld had his first of many interactions with Burgoyne as a resident of Dimmeydale. Burgoyne was the baseball coach for the Dimmeydale Rockets, and Ihlenfeld was on the team. Ihlenfeld said many of the young men in Dimmeydale looked up to Burgoyne as a father figure.
“The fact that he was an FBI agent was something I respected. I held him in the highest regard from the time I was a young boy growing up in that neighborhood,” he said.
Their paths crossed professionally after Ihlenfeld returned to Wheeling following law school, when he served as an assistant prosecutor in Ohio County and Burgoyne was sheriff. The two were board members of the Ohio Valley Drug Task Force and Ihlenfeld prosecuted many cases that Burgoyne’s deputies brought to the prosecutor’s office.
“It was incredible to have the opportunity to work with him in his role as the sheriff, my role as an assistant prosecutor and handling cases that his deputies were investigating. The collaboration there just really came full circle,” Ihlenfeld said.
The two stayed in touch after Burgoyne’s tenure as sheriff came to an end. Ihlenfeld recalled a recent lunch the two had.
“I think we were there for two hours, just so many great stories, he had so much energy, so much passion for life. He wasn’t letting anything slow him down. I was really grateful that I had the chance to spend that time with him,” Ihlenfeld said.
In 2021, Burgoyne was presented with the Youth Services System 2021 “Good Samaritan” award based on his service to children and the community.
His relationship with YSS ran deep, and he was an emeritus member of the YSS board.
Tammy Kruse, CEO of YSS, became emotional as she spoke of last visiting Burgoyne on Wednesday. She said he made certain to ask about her son, a student at Wheeling Central Catholic High School.
“It was his last day on earth, and he still cared about kids,” Kruse said.
She described Burgoyne as “a sharp, bright man.”
“He lived his life with class and dignity,” Kruse said of Burgoyne. “He had a huge impact… and not just with YSS, but with kids and the entire community…
“I look at this as a celebration of his life. He is finally with his wife Kathy. That man is everything you would want to be. He had every aspect of a good quality of life. He was a beautiful man, and he will be missed. I am stunned by the news, but I also embrace the celebration of his good life. He was loved by many and will be missed.”
Kruse also added that Burgoyne “would show up for anything and everything for Central.”
“Words can not express how much Tom Burgoyne has meant to our school community,” said Rebecca Sancomb, principal at Central. “Countless CCHS students have been impacted by his dedication and love for our school. Tom always promoted our students and worked to find resources to enhance their experiences as Maroon Knights. His infectious enthusiasm, spirit and service to our school and the community touched so many lives. He will be greatly missed but will live on in the hearts of us all. Once a Knight, Always a Knight!
“On a more personal level, for me he was a mentor, an advisor and a trusted friend. I’ve been here for 12 years and he had my back every step of the way. Behind his ready smile and big personality was a fiercely loyal, dedicated friend, not only to me, but also to our school, its students and its mission.”
She termed Burgoyne Central’s ” biggest cheerleader,” and said he advocated for the school’s students “in so many ways over the past four decades.”
“Long after his children graduated, Tom dedicated himself to bringing in resources for our students and faculty through the CCHS Boosters and the Board of Advisors,” Sancomb said. “In addition, he was a promoter, mediator, counselor, and friend to so many who came through the doors of CCHS.
“He and his late wife, Kathy, were the first to really show me what being a part of this school community means. They were also an outstanding example of how to be stewards in their church, community, and schools. I am filled with great sadness at the loss of Tom but I am so grateful for the many memories and incredible legacy he has left us. He was a good and faithful servant.”
Burgoyne also had deep ties to Wheeling University.
“Mr. Burgoyne’s passing saddens all of us at Wheeling University,” said WU President Ginny Favede. “He was a loyal and faithful servant to this institution with connections that ran deep, whose late wife Kathy, (and) son Tom graduated from Wheeling, and his granddaughter Kenadee is a current student.
“Tom never turned down an opportunity to help – teaching our students in the criminal justice program, raising money through the Cardinal Athletic Club or cheering on our sports team. He deeply loved his ‘adopted’ university, and we will miss him greatly. On behalf of Wheeling University, I offer our condolences to his family and pray that God grants him eternal rest.”
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was among those thinking of Burgoyne Thursday.
“(Husband) Charlie and I were so sad to learn of Tom’s passing,” she said. “He was a strong man, a good leader, and a devout Catholic. Whether it was through his work with local youth programs or efforts to curb the drug issues, Tom worked incredibly hard for Ohio County, and there is no question that he left it a better place.
“We will always remember Tom for many reasons, but particularly for his love of family, and of course his beloved Boston Red Sox, but we will miss him terribly.”
Former U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., called Burgoyne “a dear friend.”
“A number of times he and I had conversations when he was sheriff,” he said. “What I liked particularly about our conversations was that he was bi-partisan. He was very open-minded to hearing other perspectives.
“He was open-minded to hearing from both sides. Unfortunately, that is becoming rare in today’s political society. I enjoyed our conversations. He will be missed. A was a good man for this area.”
Ohio County Commissioner Randy Wharton said he has known Burgoyne for “many, many years.”
“I’ve known him for so long that I don’t know for how long,” Wharton said. “I had a good relationship with him for the entire time he was in Wheeling. He was a friend of my dad’s, and that’s how I got to know him.
“He was a great man who did a lot of great things for a lot of people. He wasn’t just about law enforcement – there was a human side of him. He tried to help people. He was an all-around good person and a great friend.”
Retired Ohio County Sheriff’s Deputy Nelson Croft, currently the director of the county animal shelter, first knew Burgoyne when he was with the FBI and their paths crossed during law enforcement.
“I worked with him for the eight years he was sheriff,” Croft said. “He was always innovative. He had a lot of good ideas – assigning deputies to specific areas of the county.
“He was very much into the training of the agency, and bringing in technology. And he was definitely the epitome of a family man.”
Retired reporter Fred Connors joined Burgoyne on his Cold Case Task Force that brought together a coalition of people to work on unsolved crime cases
“He was a friend of mine,” Connors said. “He was really the one responsible for pulling in the people who worked on the Cold Case Task Force.
“He was a leader – I can’t say enough about Tom Burgoyne. The people on the task force told me they were there because ‘when Tom Burgoyne calls, you go.’ That says a lot,” Connors said.