He was born on June 24, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan to James M. Burke and Margaret MacLeod Burke and moved to Alpena with his parents as a child. He graduated from Alpena High School in 1949 and then served four years in the U.S. Navy. In 1952 he married Doris Aikens; she preceded him in 1985. He then married Florence Holbert in 1988; she preceded him in 2002.
Captain Burke sailed for the National Gypsum Company in Alpena and eventually went to work for the United States Steel Company in Rogers City, Michigan. He was the Captain of the George A. Sloan, Great Lakes Fleet, for many years and had numerous stories to tell of his 39 years on the lakes. He was very well respected and much loved by his crew and lifelong sailing friends.
Captain Burke was a past president of the International Shipmasters Association, member of the Thunder Bay Island Preservation Society, the Elks, and St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
Surviving are his children, Mary Granger of Charleston, SC, Nancy Ross of Alpena, Kelly (Dean) Allison of Deer River, MN; 4 sons, James (Cherie) Burke of Lachine, Thomas (Kelly) of Alpena, Andrew Burke of Green Bay, WI, Robert (Marsha) Burke of Milwaukee, WI; 4 stepchildren, Jane (Bernard) Woitas of Canton, Thomas Holbert of Marshall, Julie Brubaker of Waterford, and Michael (Traci) Holbert of Westland. Captain Burke is also survived by his sister, Kathleen (Bruce) Stevens of Alpena, Frances (Thomas) Kakabeeke of Kalamazoo, Colleen Burke of Dowling; 19 grandchildren; 8 great-grandchildren; 14 step grandchildren; and 5 step-great-grandchildren.
In addition to his parents and spouses, he was preceded in death by his brother, Michael Burke, and stepson, Ronald Holbert.
Family and friends may call at the Bannan Funeral Home on Tuesday from 4 – 8 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue Wednesday at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church from 10:00 a.m. until the time of the funeral service at 11:00 a.m. with Rev. Greg McCallum officiating.
Interment: Holy Cross Cemetery
Memorials: St. John the Baptist Catholic Church and Hospice of MI