How’d That Turn Out?

A look back on 2021

By Norris Burkes
February 2022

As a new year gets underway, I find it worthwhile to look back at columns from the previous 12 months. Sometimes, I make predictions that turn out wrong. Other times, my stories need updates.

Consider this column my “How’d that turn out?” effort for 2022.

Last year, I told you my brother died of COVID-19 just before Christmas 2020. Milton was mesmerized by conspiracy theories. He was a COVID denier who opposed the vaccines.

I was moved by dozens of sympathy cards you sent. Your compassion was supplemented by FEMA when the agency reimbursed us for funeral costs.

Knowing the column might provoke folks to deny COVID as my brother’s actual cause of death, I elaborated: “Milton’s real causes of death were the fabrications spread by the anti-science, anti-vaxxers, anti-fluoride, flat-earthers and 5G coronavirus conspirators. He may not have swallowed their bleach, but he sure drank the Kool-Aid.”

A month later, I gratefully received my “Victory Vax” and wrote about seeking a haircut. I found a young stylist who seemed eager to talk about the pandemic.

She told me she relied on her natural immunities to resist the virus. No vaccines for her.

Not long ago, I revisited the barbershop to see how my jab-reluctant stylist was doing. The manager invited me to his chair. As he plowed through my wispy locks, he described working through a quarantine-induced staff shortage.

When I mentioned the “naturally immune” stylist who cut my hair, the manager said he promptly fired her when she brought COVID to work.

I also concluded a Veteran’s Day commentary by saying, “To a person, most vets will say, ‘Thank us, but please don’t worship or pity us. We’ve enjoyed pretty good pay and benefits for our sacrifices.’”

And speaking of those benefits, I want to thank John and Mary Taxpayer for how things turned out for me after 28 years of military service.

Thanks to the GI Bill, I’m working on a master of journalism degree at University of Nevada, Reno. I’m halfway through the program and remain on the Dean’s List. Visit my website to read how professors encouraged me to convert several columns into recorded commentary for my local radio station.

Earlier in the year, having been vaccinated and liberated, I wrote about my return to Honduras, where I supported Chispa Project. My daughter Sara founded the charity in 2015. Since then, Chispa has donated more than 35,000 books to establish elementary school libraries in Honduran communities.

The program was a great success in 2021, giving kids free homework materials and library books to check out. Chispa expects an even better year in 2022. The ambitious goal is for several larger libraries to reach an additional 3,500 students. Will you help? Donate or join me as a volunteer in Honduras. Find out more at

Last year was the 20th anniversary of this column. I’m honored that you’ve taken the time to read my work. Many of you sent thoughtful, compassionate emails and letters.

Here’s my next goal: I’m setting my sights on celebrating 25 years with this column.

After all, how else can Is justify that new journalism degree?

Norris Burkes can be reached at Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit

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