On January 28, 2019, our beloved Eugene Francis Burke was called Home. Gene was the devoted son of John Burke and Rita Steffler Burke, and leaves behind his loving wife Madeleine Munz Burke; children Marlene Burke Barrett, Paul E. Burke, and Christopher F. Burke; and adoring grandchildren Anna and Megan Barrett and Emma and Bella Burke.
Gene was a student of history, delighting in humanity and its works and in the love of God. Over the years, as his library grew beyond shelves and table tops, books could be found stacked and stuffed into every corner of his home, along with his handwritten notes and insightful observations. A graduate of Seton Hall, Gene went on to earn a masters degree from Manhattan College and, after retirement, a second masters degree from Lehman College. Gene spent his working life as a successful executive in advertising and public relations, exercising his charm and gift for persuasion on behalf of clients that included Casio, Coca-Cola, and the Archdiocese of New York.
But Gene’s heart was always in the theater. He often recounted that, as a young man, he trod the boards with many fine actors, including Tony Perkins. After his retirement from public relations, Gene returned to the stage in a well-received off-Broadway production of The Petrified Forest, bringing to life the cantankerous Gramp Maple. His credits also included notable scenes in such films as The Associate and Don’t Say A Word, and he amused millions with his numerous television appearances in comedy sketches with David Letterman and Conan O’Brien.
As much delight as he took in his thespian accomplishments, Gene was also a man of deep faith. Gene was the first ordained Catholic deacon in New York, serving the Parish of St. Gabriel’s in the Bronx for more than 45 years. He was known throughout the parish for his wisdom and good humor, and took special care to craft moving and enriching sermons.
Gene’s greatest role was that of husband, father and grandfather. He wooed the lovely Madeleine Munz, known to her friends as Mitzi, and the couple moved into the Silk Stocking District of Manhattan, to an apartment conveniently located above the world-renowned restaurant Le Perigord, where Gene was known to enjoy an appetizer or two or three. But Gene’s family grew, as families do, and they soon decamped to the idyllic pastures of Riverdale, where he and Mitzi raised three accomplished children, Marlene, Paul and Chris.
Through his kindness and gentility, Gene gathered a wide circle of friends, family and admirers who will miss him terribly, but will also take comfort in the memory of a fine gentleman. All are welcome to join in remembrance at his wake at Riverdale-on-Hudson Funeral Home on Friday, February 1, 2019, from 5:00-9:00 p.m. A funeral mass will be held at St. Gabriel’s on Saturday, February 2, 2019, at 10:00 a.m., followed by burial at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.