John Michael Burke obituary photo
 
In Memory of

John Michael Burke

January 29, 1935 - June 11, 2017

Obituary


John Michael Burke (Jack) died unexpectedly on June 11th at the age of 82. Jack was a loving husband, dedicated father, cherished grandfather, favorite uncle, faithful brother, inspirational teacher and best friend. He will be missed by all those who loved him.

Jack was a scholar and an educator. He graduated from Cathedral High School and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in political science at Boston College. This was followed by two master's degrees; one in Russian language and literature at Fordham University, and one in Germanic studies at the University of...

John Michael Burke (Jack) died unexpectedly on June 11th at the age of 82. Jack was a loving husband, dedicated father, cherished grandfather, favorite uncle, faithful brother, inspirational teacher and best friend. He will be missed by all those who loved him.

Jack was a scholar and an educator. He graduated from Cathedral High School and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in political science at Boston College. This was followed by two master's degrees; one in Russian language and literature at Fordham University, and one in Germanic studies at the University of New Hampshire. Not satisfied with three degrees, Jack went on to earn a PhD in Russian language and literature at Brown University. Jack believed strongly in the power of education to bring about change, and specifically in the mission of public education. His first teaching position was as a language professor at the College of the Holy Cross. This was followed by a tenured position at Fitchburg State College, where he taught the Russian and German languages and Russian literature for thirty years. Jack didn't just lecture students, but engaged them in all aspects of the German and Russian culture. He took student groups abroad, required students to sing popular German songs in class, and introduced them to the Berliner Weisse at the Wursthaus in Harvard Square. Even after retiring, Jack continued to teach German for 13 years at Bridgewater State University and privately taught German to his student and friend, Burke (first name, no relation). He continued to take on new students as recently as last month.

Jack's work at Fitchburg State was not limited to teaching. He was an academic leader, promoter of faculty, and a tireless proponent for positive change within higher education. He served as Chair of the Humanities Department numerous times. Over a fourteen year period he was elected Vice President (3 times) and President (3 times) of the Faculty Union. In all, he served in these official positions for 13 years. After retirement he was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus.

His belief in the importance of public service, led Jack to serve in the military after college. After being chosen to attend the prestigious language school at the Presidio in California, he served in the US Counter Intelligence Corps in Berlin at a particularly tense period during the Cold War, as the Berlin Wall was being built. Although he joked about his many misadventures as a covert operative, which were readily believed by his wife and children, it was a very dangerous time. Jack's language skills needed to be good enough to convince others that he was a native Berliner.

Perhaps his greatest gift, however, was his ability to make all those he met feel welcome, accepted, understood and appreciated. Jack loved to tell jokes and, whether funny or not, they always made people laugh. He loved meeting his brothers, Joe, Jerry, Jim, and Phil for breakfast or lunch. He enjoyed staying in touch with his colleagues from Fitchburg State University and they would travel long distances to keep in touch. He loved keeping up to date and joking with his nieces and nephews at family gatherings. From his example, his children learned about tolerance, equity, and the true meaning of the word catholic.
Of course Jack was heavily influenced by his wife, Florence who kept him on a straight and narrow path. In his retirement years they were constant companions, caretakers of each other, best friends and strongly bound by love.

Jack is survived by his constant companion, and wife of fifty-nine years, Florence; his children; Ann-Marie Burke, and her husband, Edward Hathaway, of Sharon, MA, Kathleen Burke Perez, and her husband, Juan Perez, of Upton, MA, John Burke, and his wife, Heather Burke, of Marion, and Mary Burke of Sagamore Beach; and by his grandchildren; Michael, Edward, Daniel, Anna, Jack, Patrick, Harrison, Ian and Brendan. He is also leaves his brothers; Joseph Burke of Braintree, Gerard Burke, and his wife Rosemary Burke, of Norton, and James Burke, his wife Patricia of Wilbraham, brother-in-law Philip Murphy of Walpole, and many loving nephews and nieces.

In lieu of flowers, consider making a donation to;
Vermont Haiti Project
63 Maple Leaf Lane
Shelburne, VT 05482
Donate online and learn more: www.vermonthaitiproject.org
Please designate your gift to Fr. Bill's Building

Society of St. Vincent De Paul, in care of Corpus Christi, East Sandwich, MA
https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E135450&id=21