Roberts, Burnell

Roberts, Burnell

On February 28, 2023, Burnell Richard Roberts, aged 95, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family. He resided in Oakwood, Ohio for over fifty years, and spent his final years in Centerville, Ohio. He also enjoyed spending time with family and friends on Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan.

Burnell was born May 6, 1927, in Lafayette County, Wisconsin to Roy C. and Anna May Roberts. He and his older brother Hayden were raised on a dairy farm, where they learned the value of hard work. He attended a one-room schoolhouse through 8th grade. Subsequently, he lived with his grandparents in Rewey, Wisconsin to attend high school, with summers spent working on the farm. He attended the University of Wisconsin on a scholarship for two years before enlisting in the US Navy to serve in World War II. He served on a destroyer in the Marshall Islands. After his service he returned to finish his degree at UW in 1950.

While at Wisconsin, he met his future wife Karen Ragatz, the daughter of a Professor of Chemical Engineering. They married in August 1953 and were happily married until her passing in July 2021.

After working for several years, Burnell decided that he needed further education. In 1957 he graduated from Harvard University with an MBA. He then worked at General Tire Company in Akron, Ohio and A.M. Byers Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1966, the Mead Corporation recruited him to serve as Controller. He advanced through finance and operating roles before being named President of the corporation in 1981. In 1982, Burnell was elected Chairman and CEO and led Mead for 10 years until his retirement at age 65 in 1992. Post-retirement he joined American Industrial Partners, a private equity company, as a Partner until his retirement in 2004.

He served on numerous corporate boards including Armco Inc., National City Bank (Cleveland), Northwood Pulp & Paper, DPL, Inc., Perkins-Elmer Corporation and Rayonier Inc.

During his business career, Burnell was deeply committed to the Dayton community, serving on the boards of the Dayton Foundation, The Dayton Art Institute, The Dayton Performing Arts Fund, Miami Valley Research Foundation and Hospice of Dayton, plus many other local charities. He was also involved with many regional and national organizations including the Aspen Institute, the Ohio Business Roundtable, and the Japan Society.

Burnell was deeply invested in education, serving on the boards of Kenyon College, Central State University, Sinclair Community College, St. Rita School for the Deaf (Cincinnati), the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the Morgridge Institute for Research (Madison, Wisconsin). In addition, he was Vice Chairman of the Dayton Mayor's Commission on Adult Literacy. He was awarded honorary degrees by Kenyon College, the University of Dayton, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and was named the 1984 Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Wisconsin School of Business.

Burnell is survived by his four children: Evan Roberts (Elizabeth) of Birmingham, Alabama; Kari Sadler (Steve) of Shawnee Mission, Kansas; Paul Roberts (Sandra) of Zurich, Switzerland; and Nancy Pohlmeyer of Centerville, Ohio. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Owen Roberts, Molly Roberts, Eleanor Roberts, Anna Sadler, Craig Sadler, Claire Roberts, Lilly Roberts, Krista Pohlmeyer, and Emily Pohlmeyer.

He is also survived by his brother-in-law Andrew Ragatz of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, by nephews and nieces on both sides of the family, as well as many grand- and great-grand nephews and nieces.

In his own words: "I have been blessed by working with a wonderful group of people in each organization where I was employed. They were intelligent, dedicated, honest, creative and all with a keen sense of humor. None of my career advancement or successes, or the success of the corporations I worked with could have happened without this great group of people."

"It has always been clear that my family was the backbone of all things in my life. I was blessed with having a loving, stable, happy family who could rise to any occasion. Success would not have been possible without the dedicated support of my great family."

Visitation will be at the chapel at Tobias Funeral Home, 5471 Far Hills Avenue, Dayton, Ohio , March 30, 2023 from 3 to 4 pm with the Funeral Service to follow. The family will attend a private interment at Dayton National Cemetery. The family would like to express its deep appreciation for the care and support provided by Bethany Village, by Dynamic Senior Solutions and by Ohio's Hospice of Dayton. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Ohio's Hospice of Dayton (324 Wilmington Ave. Dayton, OH 45420). Condolences may be made to

Funeral Home Information

Tobias Funeral Home - Far Hills Chapel

5471 Far Hills Ave

Dayton, OH