Bernie Burba, a pioneer in the production of hot tubs, passed away Nov. 18 in Tucson, Ariz. He was 91.

Bernard Thomas Burba was born August 16, 1932, in Waukegan, Ill.

According to his family, Burba was a natural-born salesman from the time he was a child, when he sold newspapers at Great Lakes Naval Base. He later enlisted and served in the Navy from 1951 to 1954 and was an airship mechanic at Naval Air Station Weeksville in N.C.

Burba’s pool/spa industry career began in 1955, as he worked for a variety of manufacturers, including Sparkler Mfg. and Recreation Supply Co. In 1965, he cofounded the distributor Aqua-Gon with Ed Price.

In 1969, Burba and Price started Baja Industries. What began as a diving-board maker became a portable-spa pioneer in 1972, when it introduced the first acrylic spa.

In a previous issue of Pool & Spa News, Burba looked back at the development of this new product.

“When we were experimenting with acrylic, we didn’t know that it would turn out to have as big an impact as it turned out to have,” he said. “We originally manufactured acrylic diving-board stands, but noticed all the problems people were having with the fiberglass spas — and knew we could solve some of those problems. We got our first acrylic sheets from Swedcast Acrylics, which was supplying copper-colored acrylic for the people-mover cars at the new Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Shortly after that, the company supplied us with acrylic sheets in blue, blue-and-white marble, and black-and-white marble — so the acrylic spas were available in only those colors.”

Burba moved his family to Tucson to focus on Baja in 1972.

In 1989, Burba joined with Mike Hagerty to establish Inter-Fab, maker of diving boards, stands, rail goods, slides and artificial rocks, among other products, which was acquired by S.R. Smith in 2018.

Burba served on the National Spa & Pool Institute (a predecessor of the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance) in a variety of local, regional and national positions, including on the national Board of Directors, as well as committees and councils.

Burba retired in 1997.

He enjoyed golf, travel, Wildcat basketball, making turned-wood pens and summers at his home in Pinetop.

Burba is survived by his five children, 12 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

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