Selling real estate didn’t do much for Bob Burdette. “To be quite honest with you, I wasn’t very good at it,” he says. “I just didn’t get a lot from it.” So 35 years ago, he decided to try his hand at selling insurance through State Farm. He’s never looked back. “If somebody’s home burns down, you can stand in the front yard and give them some sympathy and a big check to start from that day all over again,” he says. “That’s what I like.”

Few agents go to the lengths Burdette does: He gives clients his cell phone number. “My policyholders can call me any time they want,” he says. “They can call me in the grocery store, or they can call me when I’m in England for my daughter’s wedding, like they did last summer.” A client once called at 3:18 a.m. after a car accident. “About an hour later we got his car towed, and we took care of it the next day,” he says. “When you get that unusual phone call, that’s someone in distress.”

Burdette especially likes State Farm’s “Steer Clear” program that reviews road skills with young drivers, then offers an insurance discount. “But they have to come in and talk to me,” he says. “If I can tell some of these kids that just got their license about some of the things I’ve seen, maybe it will help. Auto insurance is expensive enough—my job is to make it more valuable than just a premium payment.”

When he’s not fielding client calls, Burdette’s passion is growing blueberries. He stopped planting at what he estimates to be about 500 bushes. “I found out being that kind of farmer takes a lot more effort than being a State Farmer,” he quips. — PK

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Pam Kasey
Written by Pam Kasey
Pam Kasey has traveled, brewed, farmed, counseled, and renovated, but most loves to write. She has degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and in journalism from West Virginia University. She loves celebrating Morgantown and West Virginia as executive editor at New South Media.