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Lees J Burrows

November 21, 1928 April 22, 2018
Lees J Burrows
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Obituary for Lees J Burrows

BURROWS, Lees J., Jr., a life-long resident of Spokane, went to be with the Lord on April 22, 2018 at 89 years of age. Lees, a geophysicist will be remembered as President and CEO of Diamond Drill Contracting Company and as a devoted father and husband. He believed in capitalism, American ingenuity and the power of the private sector to create jobs and lasting economic growth. Lees was part of the post-WWII generation that led the country to robust economic development.
Lees was born in Spokane, WA, on November 21, 1928, the only son of Lees Joslyn, Sr “Bill” and Beryl Burrows. He attended Lakeside School in Seattle, Philips Academy at Andover, MA, and Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane. Lees’ interest in geology and diamond core drilling was piqued at an early age while traveling extensively with his father to various gold and silver mines throughout the western US. He worked summers as a drill helper in Washington, Idaho and Montana where he began to develop his capabilities.
He obtained his bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from University of Idaho. He served in the US Air Force from 1952 to 1957 and earned his master’s degree in geophysics at St. Louis University. Upon graduating, Lees and his wife, Gayle Nelson Burrows, moved to Boston where Lees worked as an officer in the USAF’s Research and Development-Earthquake Seismology program, located at the Cambridge Research Center on the campus of MIT.
Having fulfilled his military duty, Lees was honorably discharged as first lieutenant in 1957. The family returned to the northwest where he accepted a position as geophysical engineer at the Sunshine Mining Co, in Kellogg, ID. In 1959, Lees acquired his father’s business, The Diamond Drill Contracting Company. The well-respected company had earned several patents and had a rich history dating back to its founding in 1898.
Lees expanded the business and its facilities by putting heavy emphasis on developing new types of diamond coring equipment. Lees introduced computer-aided (computer numerical control) lathes and expanded the company’s product line to include high recovery wireline core barrels and portable drills for small contractors. They developed innovative large modular diamond drills for deep hole exploration that could be transported via helicopter to remote wilderness locations thus avoiding building expensive invasive roads. Lees also created the company’s contract drilling division, providing mineral exploration and geotechnical drilling for the western US and Alaska.
Of note, Lees and his experienced crew of diamond drillers participated in the largest discovery of molybdenum, an important mineral used for catalysts and to strengthen metal. The discovery occurred in Alaska in the late 1970s while working with US Borax. Lees also formed Blue Bore Inc, an innovative manufacturer of diamond core bits. He served as president of the Northwest Mining Association and was president of the board for the Spokane Club.
On a personal level, Lees spent a good part of his life at Priest Lake, where his family were lessees dating back to the early 1900’s. His children would often quip that in his retirement years, Lees was either getting ready to go to the lake, on his way to the lake or at the lake. He completed seventeen Bloomsday Runs, enjoyed rowing a 21-foot scull and just hanging out with his kids. During his lifetime, he was blessed with many close friends, business associates and employees. If asked what his greatest accomplishment was in life, Lees would quickly answer, getting three kids through college! Lees is survived by those three children, Josh Burrows, Tana Binninger and Kaari Davies and one grandchild Cali Davies.
As a recovering alcoholic for the last 30 years, Lees would credit his sobriety to Alcoholics Anonymous, its 12-Steps program and help from the Betty Ford Center. In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations be made to Hazelden Betty Ford Center, P.O. 1560, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. A private service will be held for Lees later this month.

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