GAS OIL AND POLITICS MIXED FOR SONNY BURCH

  • Commissioner Larry Jarboe speaks at rally of Golden Beach citizens upset about plans of Sonny Burch and John Parlett for a new project.

By Ken Rossignol

THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

Just three days after the Democratic Party in St. Mary’s County failed to mount any serious party primary contests, Sonny Burch died.

F. Elliott Burch Jr., always known as Sonny, passed away on July 22, 2022. Sonny Burch, 88, and his family built on the company began by his grandfather, S. Bernard Burch, then by his father, F. Elliott Burch Sr. The Burch Oil Company added many Gulf Oil products, including gasoline and fuel oil, sprouting a chain of filling stations, car washes, convenience stores, Subway sandwich shops, and keeping homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

Donald “Buddy” Burch operated the company with his brother Sonny Burch for sixty years before passing in 2017. Sonny and Buddy’s children eventually took over the company and continued the Burchmart and Burch Oil brands, expanding into propane products. The convenience stores were sold to NSR Petro Services LLC, which operates the former Burchmarts under the name of Birdies, in 2020.

Burch Oil received oil by barges to storage tank facilities on both the Potomac and the Patuxent Rivers and later built a fuel depot north of Leonardtown when Burch Oil purchased the former Thrift Oil company.

Sonny ventured into politics, running for President of the St.  Mary’s County Commissioners twice, in 1990 and again in 1994. Burch lost to Republicans Karl Marx “Buddy” Loffler Jr. in 1990 and Barbara Thompson in 1994. Sonny’s father, F. Elliott Burch Sr., won twice as a Democrat as a commissioner, first in 1962 and again in 1966, finishing his second term in 1970.  

When Sonny Burch was running for office, there was about five times the number of Democrats as there were Republicans and all of the action was in the Democratic Primary, unlike the present as the GOP is the hot ticket. When Burch lost in 1994, that year was a clean sweep for the GOP, which saw all members of the St. Mary’s Commissioner Board Republicans.

In addition to growing his family, his business, and participating in social and civic groups, Sonny Burch was also a developer of many residential and commercial properties in Southern Maryland.

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