Obituary: William O. Burchinal / Enjoyed playing a zombie in 'Night of the Living Dead'

Sept. 7, 1922 - April 17, 2013

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William O. Burchinal worked as a radio broadcaster and in the advertising industry, but perhaps he will be remembered longest for playing a zombie in 1968 cult classic horror film "Night of the Living Dead."

In an interview years later, Mr. Burchinal recalled when he got interested in a movie that he heard was going to be made locally.

"When it turned out to be a film on zombies, let's say that we who were raised on 'Gone with the Wind' thought, 'Holy smokes, what kind of a film is this going to be?' " he said.

That comment comes from deleted interview clips from "Autopsy of the Dead," a 2009 documentary about the George A. Romero film. The clip was put on YouTube last year.

Mr. Burchinal was working full time and couldn't get involved in day-to-day shooting, but he found out he could play a zombie at night on the weekends. "I thoroughly enjoyed it," he said in the clip.

Born in Smithfield, Fayette County, Mr. Burchinal, 90, of Carnegie died Wednesday at Concordia of Mt. Lebanon.

He earned a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University, a master's from Columbia University and served in the Navy for three years. He began work as a radio announcer in Morgantown, W.Va., and Wilmington, Del., and then became a radio and television commercial producer for Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove.

At first, commercials were produced in-studio, but gradually on-location settings were needed. Mr. Burchinal made connections with Latent Image, a company formed by Mr. Romero, who became producer and director of the black-and-white movie filmed largely in and around Evans City, Butler County.

Mr. Burchinal performed with the Little Lake Theatre in two plays in 1955 and also appeared in other small theaters.

He had been a board member of Smith State Bank in Smithfield.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. today at Henney, Bradwell & Nirella Funeral Home, 524 Washington Ave., Carnegie.

Services will be at 7:30 tonight at the funeral home.


Eleanor Chute: or 412-263-1955.


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