IRON MOUNTAIN – On Jan. 15, 2014, my mother, Helen Burke, died at the age of 92 years young. My mother lead an interesting, full life and her family and friends will miss her dearly.
Helen was born July 30, 1921, in Racine, Wis., to James and Helen Duffy. She loved dancing, especially tap and told me she had wanted to be a famous dancer like Ruby Keeler or to dance with the Rockettes. During World War II, my mother worked in a factory where she met and fell in love with my father, Emmett Burke. When my father joined the Marine Corps, my mother followed him to San Diego where they were married.
After the war, my parents returned to Racine. Helen was the only mother on the block who would do cartwheels and back bends – all while wearing a skirt.
My parents moved to Oshkosh, Wis., in 1969 and lived there for about four years before moving to Iron Mountain in 1977 when my father changed jobs. They drove a bright yellow Corvette, loved to dance, golfed as often as possible and threw a great party. My mother called herself a big city girl and moving north was a huge change for her. But the community of Iron Mountain embraced my parents. They became members of St. Mary Queen of Peace and loved attending Mass and supporting the Church. Helen worked in the church office often – loved going to work. I often suggested that my mother move closer to our family, especially after the death of my father in 1996, but she said her social life was in Michigan. She and her girlfriends celebrated birthdays and holidays. They helped each other through the deaths of husbands and through medical challenges. Packers games were an excuse to get together to eat and drink – I don’t think anyone knew what the score was but they had fun just being together.
My husband Ron and I will miss my mother’s Irish sense of humor and the great brandy old fashioneds she made. Our daughter Angela and her husband Jake live in Cypress, Texas with their children Chloe and Jacob. Jake gave my mother her first ride on Angela’s Harley Davidson. Gabrielle and husband Phil and their daughter Madeleine live in New Glarus, Wis. On Jan. 24, 2014, a new great-granddaughter Savanna will arrive and we know Gabrielle and Phil will tell Savanna about Great-Grandma Burke and how thrilled she was to be a great-grandmother. And that Great-Grandma thought chocolate was one of the major food groups. Hallie has a boyfriend, Matt Dicks and lives in Oshkosh, Wis. Grandma called Hallie her free spirit – I think Hallie reminded my mother of herself.
My family and I thank Martha Plumley, Janet Fiorazo, Betty Glanville and all of the many friends who made my mother’s life so full and rich.
We will miss my mother for many reasons but most of all because she was the best mother, grandmother and great-grandmother ever. I know my mother and father are dancing and playing golf, and my mother is wearing her gold shoes, has her nails polished red and a tissue tucked into her sleeve, just in case.
Please join us in celebrating the wonderful life of Helen Burke on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Kingsford Funeral Home. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Queen of Peace Catholic Church with Fr. Paul Nomellini presiding.
Burial will be in Dickinson County Memorial Gardens.
Condolences may be expressed to the family of Helen Burke online at www.ernashfuneralhomes.com.
The family has entrusted the Erickson-Rochon & Nash Funeral Home with the funeral arrangements.