Gene Burgad

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Gene Burgad

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Gene Burgad

Eugene “Gene” Burgad passed away in Billings on Aug. 14, 2019, at the age of 68. Born in San Diego, California, to Raymond and Regina Burgad, he was one of two siblings. Gene was a world traveler. At 21, he moved to Europe, where he worked on sailing boats in Greece; for the US military in Garmisch Parten-Kirchen, Germany; and on the ski lifts in Davos, Switzerland, where he met his future wife. They have been married for 33 years and have one daughter.

Gene was well known in the Billings community as a business leader and owner/manager of The Rex Restaurant for 34 years. He was instrumental in helping establish the historic Montana Avenue district. He was a great supporter of MSU-Billings Foundation Wine Fest. He was recognized by the Billings Chamber of Commerce for his efforts to make Billings a ONEderful place to live. He was a co-founder of the Magic City Blues Fest, which started in 2002 and still takes place at the Rex property. He served on the boards of the Montana Restaurant Association, Billings Depot, and Alberta Bair Theater among others.

Gene loved life. He was a musician, a food and wine connoisseur and storyteller who loved to entertain. He was happiest being surrounded by his customers, friends and family. He could light up a room with his incandescent humor. He began his restaurant management career at the Depot Restaurant in Missoula before moving to Billings and opening the Rex Restaurant in April of 1983. He had a kind of charisma that appealed to all ages. He will be sorely missed by all of those whose lives he touched.

He is survived by his wife Ann Clancy and his daughter Coco Burgad; his sister Patricia (Burgad) Trandal, brother-in-law Dave Trandal, and nephew David Trandal.

A public memorial service will be announced in the fall.

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18 thoughts on “Gene Burgad”

  1. Kate Clancy Moritz

    Gene was a larger than life personality. We were delighted to welcome him into our family. He loved my sister Ann and their daughter Coco and enjoyed life with them. He will be deeply missed by us. Love to you Gene.

  2. We didn’t know each other for that long, but, I quickly noticed, your dry sense of humor and wonderfully timed quips . It was a honor to know you and hear your stories. God Bless.

  3. Gene was a long time friend and fellow small business owner in downtown Billings. So sorry to see your passing.
    Hunter and Cheryl

  4. I worked closely with Gene in the restoration of the Rex. We have shared stories and laughter, became friends. He will be missed by so many who have worked with him and known him throughout the years. Auld Lang Syne My Friend.

  5. Sandy and Larry Fischer

    We treasure our long family friendship. We have fond memories of all the work and family celebrations Gene was part of planning and participating in. Really enjoyed working with him and community to spruce up Montana Avenue and the historic district. Such a charismatic guy!

  6. I’ve known Gene for many years and had the pleasure of doing work on his Rex restaurant for several years. He was a wonderfully friendly and witty guy who always had time to tell a quick joke or story. I left Billings almost 30 years ago but every time I returned to visit I tried to look up Gene. For all of the years I’ve been away from the Rex and Billings I never forgot my friend Gene. Godspeed my friend and thank you for being my friend and all of the memories. I will miss you but you will always be in my thoughts.

  7. Ever since I heard the news of Gene’s passing, I have been thinking about the impact he made on my life. I started working for Gene when I was 21 years old. He taught me so much. I wish I could tell him how much I appreciate the opportunities he gave me and the grace he showed when I blew it. I was so young and full of attitude. There were days when I was ungrateful and a know-it-all yet he kindly forgave me. He had enough confidence in me to let me make mistakes. I learned about fine wines, delicious foods and real customer service. These things made a Wyoming cafe girl feel like somebody, but Gene helped me stay humble by pointing out when I “dropped the ball”. We would have a tiff over something, then take a walk around the block together to put it right. We spent a decade working together, and it was a fantastic period of growth for me. I made many a bad choice in that time, but Gene never judged me, nor I him. The Rex allowed me to raise my son, make lifelong friendships, and brag about managing Billings best restaurant. Gene allowed me to be human, grow up, and change. Once, after being especially foolish, I asked Gene, “when will I feel like a grownup?” He answered, “when your parents are gone.” He was right, I felt it when my parents passed. I’m feeling it again now. Grown up stuff is so hard. Gene helped raise me. I wish I could tell him that. I get it now. We have teachers everywhere in our lives. I pray that he is at peace and believe that he lives on in all the lives he touched. I truly feel that he shaped my life. Thanks for letting me share. I wish I could be there physically, but since I can’t, I send these thoughts of love and deep respect,
    Krissy.

    Sent from my iPhone

  8. Gene started his Montana career with me at the Depot in Missoula we became fast friends and eventually close families. I’m honored to be Coco’s Godfather. Ann and Gene came to Missoula to help when our daughter Kiley was born, more Ann I guess. He was really fun to be with, we had the best of times on the golf course, Swan lake and also as business partners. A wonderful friend and a great family man, loved his wife and adored his Coco. Ann and I will miss him, he was a wonderful person. Mike and Ann Munsey

  9. Sending love to Ann and Coco and angel wings to Cat man. So, so sad to hear of his passing. We worked together at the Depot and it’s true, his stories were always fabulous and his dead pan humour always delightful. XoooJill Zignego

  10. Ann & Coco
    My Heart is heavy for you both .

    Gene had such a huge impact on me , Man I’m so blessed for my Rex memories. He taught me that being a server was all about sales , I stood a little taller in my serving career because of him
    He came to the hospital, carrying a baby book he had gotten at Gainans when I had an emergency csection and then had Blackened Prime Rib take out ( my favorite) set up for dinner at St Vs . The nurses LOVED that & so did I . He was so social with his guests and would travel from table to table saying Hello . Customers loved it 🤗🤗
    Such a great Man
    Incredible Memories
    The Rex Family is forever a part of us All
    Thank you Gene
    Godspeed
    CJ Chapman

  11. Angie Macioroski

    My condolences go out to Ann & Coco! My heart is so heavy. Gene was part of my life for 20 yrs while working for him at the Rex. He will never be forgotten. He gave me my start in the restaurant business & I thought I would work for him forever. I truly loved him & that restaurant. I’m so thankful he was such a big part of my life. I don’t think he even knew how how loved & respected he truly was! Ann & Coco you are in my prayers.

  12. I worked at the MRM Women and Family Shelter for 17 years. Every year Gene coordinated an amazing Thanksgiving dinner to be served at the Rex to the current residents of the Shelter, past residents and staff. It was a wonderful experience, people felt loved and cared for! He did not allow the press to be present, as he did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable. He blessed hundreds of people over the years!

  13. I had the privilege of meeting Gene when Ann and Gene started their “Do you believe in Magic” romance. Such a beautiful couple, such a kind good funny man. My memories are rich and long lasting. My deepest condolences for Ann and Coco, my thought and prayers are with you. May his memory inspire your life and may he always live in your heart.

  14. My heart is heavy to hear this news. I worked at the Rex for a few years during college. Gene was incredibly supportive, fostered potential in his employees, and supported my professional growth both within, and outside of, the food and beverage industry. I’m a foodie for life thanks to the passion and love for hospitality and fine dining that he shared with me. The mark he made on Billings was significant. Prayers to Anne and Coco.

  15. I worked at the Depot with Gene from ’80 – ’82, first as a dishwasher and then a bartender. So many fond memories of the Cat Man from those days! One that stands out was an a cappella performance with 3 co-workers (Sean Nichols, Steve Nemeth, and ?), one evening in the bar – a glorious rendition of Come and Go With Me (Del Vikings, 1957). Gene sang the lead. I’m not sure how long those guys rehearsed it, but the performance came as a complete surprise to this on-duty bartender and pretty much made my night.

    Gene was one of a kind. The man had spirit. The man had soul. He was unfailingly generous and kind, and a human fun machine. This grouchy bartender will miss him, and I know I won’t be alone.

  16. Having known Gene since high school, I must say the stories being told in these remembrances all ring true to our friend. There was a great love of life in Gene that spread to us all. Remembering him makes us smile, sadly but a warm smile of love and appreciation for having known Gene.

  17. I am an Australian friend of Gene’s. We all lived ,laughed, loved, ate, joked,skied, made movies and music made cookies and generally messed up together in house ” Pedra” in Davos Switzerland early 1970’s.How lucky we were to have a 40 year reunion in Davos 4 years ago where a large group of house Pedra residents gathered to reminisce about times gone by. Gene was there in full swing destroying the gear box in a manual rent car saying who ever invented stick shifts should have put a cluch in the car. We all had so many laughs. Gene took over my old car when I left Davos in the 70’s. He and Ann and others drove it many kms around Europe but decided to get rid of it as lights stopped working and many other electrical problems.He dropped the others at the ” Dump” gate and drove in on a very bumpy road only to have all electrics back in operation.Well the look on his face as he drove out to collect the others was a sight to behold, he was the man.
    Ann and Coco, my heart goes out to you at this time, a life well lived but to short.
    With love and best wishes from Greg and Lyn Stahel

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