Remembering: Craig Burross (1962–2024)

Craig Burross – considered a legend of the professional entertainment lighting industry – sadly passed away on 23 May 2024. Known and loved across North America and much further worldwide, his numerous achievements include a fantastic 33-year career working in sales and management with some of the leading and pioneering moving light technology brands.

Burross was a devoted family man with a huge heart, an innate sense of kindness, and an infectious smile who loved life, lived it to the max, and always pushed the boundaries of experience. He was passionate about learning from and sharing knowledge and experience with others, and a huge inspiration to the many he touched in both his personal and professional lives, from aspiring young lighting designers to his family and the numerous friends and colleagues to whom he brought vibrance, energy and the power of positive thinking.

Burross is survived by his wife and love of his life Kat Burross, sons Caden Burross, Chase Anderson and Matt Anderson; daughter Paige Anderson, two grandchildren Josephine and Fiona and brothers Steve, Terry, and Kevin Burross, plus his many industry buddies, cohorts, and companions.

Born on 6 August 6 1962, and raised in Wichita Falls, Texas, USA, one of four siblings – Burross had a happy childhood, attended the S.H. Rider High School. His teenage dream at this time was to become a professional musician, so huge enthusiasm went into playing drums – he had a natural sense of rhythm – and occasionally guitar – in several local and college bands.

Burross then studied studio audio engineering in Irving, Dallas, Texas. After gaining his degree, one of his bands, Blitzkrieg, was successful enough to hit the road and engage in nationwide touring. In spite of some near brushes with success – numerous anecdotes like fuelling their van post-show at the same gas station in LA as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, also refilling after a gig and completely unknown at the time.

He returned to Texas and was working at cinema company Victor Duncan in Dallas selling gels, tapes, and other expendables, when he was ‘discovered’ by production designer and author Richard Cadena who was then working at a manufacturing company in Austin, Texas, called High End Systems. The firm was building its first entertainment moving mirror and scanner lights at the time, they were right at the cutting edge of this nascent technology and business was booming.

Bob Schacherl, then president of HES, hired Burross immediately as Northeast Sales Manager, where he stayed for the next decade, building professional and personal relationships and networks. By 2001, Schacherl had moved to Vari*Lite in Dallas and head-hunted Burross to be on his sales team there, so he relocated to New Jersey to do this, but in 2004 returned to Austin and Barco / High End, where he remained until 2014.

Burross later joined Robe’s rapidly expanding North America operation where Schacherl was now CEO. As always, he excelled, and at Robe worked his magic as part of a team including then CFO/COO and now CEO, Lorienn Cochenour. The Robe years culminated with him becoming Chief Sales Officer for North America and part of Robe’s vibrant international team.

His vast network of colleagues, acquaintances, and friends – even those working for competitor companies – all echo these same thoughts and reflections and remember him as a beacon of positive energy, someone who is strong and resolute even in the toughest moments.

His friendship with Robert Mokry of LightParts Inc., dates from the early High End days. “Craig had one of the most consistently positive attitudes of anyone I’ve ever met,” states Robert. “Honestly, I don’t know how he did it sometimes! Even when he was fighting Stage four cancer (diagnosed 2017 and in remission from 2021), never once did he have any victim pity for himself. It was just a relentless ‘I’m gonna beat this’ and he would say it really matter of factly, and guess what, he beat it! His example spoke volumes. He could either be a victim or a survivor, and Craig was gonna be a survivor!”

Another very strong bond developed with lighting designer Stephen Lieberman who he initially met in 1995 – in a lounge / restaurant called Match in SoHo, New York City – mused Stephen recalling the details. Lieberman was together with Tony Perez – now International Business Development Manager for Robe Maritime – and some other friends at the time.

Lieberman noted that Burross ‘influenced all aspects of my life’, and while initially united through their chosen profession, Burross’ influence and warmth extended to Lieberman’s wife Michele and their children Jack and Sophia to whom he was like an older brother and uncle. “Craig left an indelible mark on everyone with whom he had a relationship, even if it was casual, he just had an uncanny ability to make you feel comfortable! His impact on our industry has been remarkable!”

In the early 1990s,  Perez was living and working in New York City, building nightclubs and special production events and Burross was High End’s NE sales manager living in Austin, and frequently travelling. He was visiting some clubs that Tony and his team were building at that time and the two men “immediately hit it off,” explained Tony.

Perez reckons Burross’ biggest influence on his life was when he convinced him to work on cruise ships. “Trusting him turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life. Because of Craig, I met my wife, Cass, and we have two beautiful girls!” declared Perez. “We spent countless nights listening and dancing to the best house music in the most amazing clubs or music festivals, all hanging out at Steve’s lighting booth! I would give anything to be able to spend one more night together with Craig and Steve… I will continue to carry Craig’s torch of brightness and keep his memories alive!”

Burross will be remembered for many things, but Lieberman is adamant he would most want to be remembered as a loving husband and the patriarch of his family. “This truly meant everything to him… he spoke about Kat with such love – it was profoundly evident that they were meant to be together.”

Burross’ energy, enthusiasm for life and experience took his wife, Kat, to many new and exciting places. “He opened my eyes to so much, and I always felt totally safe with him, even when he sometimes decided to explore the edgier parts of a location!” she recalled. “He was irrepressible – none of us could keep up, even my sons who were half his age! He was always joking and laughing, sometimes his comments could be a little raw and unfiltered, but it was so much part of his persona.”

Like many others, Kat believes that the bedrock of Craig’s strength of character, his steely resolve, his loyalty and ultimate humanity and love of people was informed by his strong faith. As Robert Mokry puts it, he was “an honest, compassionate, decent man of faith who loved and cared for his family, friends, and business associates very well.” He elaborated: “His belief in God and Christian values informed the honourable way he lived his life and conducted his business.”

Robe North America CEO Lori acknowledges the difference he made. “His industry knowledge, expertise, and experience were instrumental to our success throughout North America and around the world. He was a dear friend, a wonderful partner, and a beautiful human being. We spent many long hours together and his passing has left an undeniable hole in my heart. While he will be missed greatly from a business perspective, it is even more so as my close, personal friend.”

Robe Lighting CEO and co-founder Josef Valchar stated: “Craig was truly a special person, ultimately respected by the lighting industry and anyone who had the chance and privilege to work or engage with him. He was a good friend and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met – always very helpful and kind. His passing is a big loss for our industry. He will be missed by everyone – his family, all his Robe colleagues, numerous friends and of course the entire professional lighting community. May his soul rest in peace. His light will continue to shine in all of us!”

In closing, Perez said he was “honoured” to have been able to spend the past 32 years working and sharing my life with Burross. “We have lost our brother and will miss Craig’s laughter, joy, and unconditional love. Until we see each other again!”

Lieberman concluded: “Craig – I am so grateful for our friendship and so heartbroken that you are gone. You will be forever a part of my life! Little sayings that were quintessentially ‘CB’ have become part of my vernacular – long before you passed. I will miss you… I love you. Rest in peace brother.”