Obituary: Alan B. Burke – CentralMaine.com
SKOWHEGAN – On April 10, 1929, Alan B. Burke was born on the Burke family farm in Robbinston, Maine, overlooking Passamoquoddy Bay. His life on earth ended at home on December 9, 2021. He went to his Lord. Growing up on the farm he learned to take care of animals, spent time with his grandfather, Fred Burke, in the forge where his first job was to crank the forge fan and pass the nails with the blacksmith during the shoeing of the horses. He also spent time with his uncles, Percy and Leroy, in the woodworking shop, playing with and learning to use tools.
Alan walked to Robbinston Ridge one-room school for grades 1-6. Before going to school he could read, knew states and capitals, had a globe and maps. He skipped grade seven and had the same teacher in grade eight at the two-class school in Robbinston Village. He graduated from the Académie de Calais in 1946. He said: “I had my diploma in one hand and the writing work on the other”. He spoke with a recruiter in Calais. After reviewing his high school records, he was promised Army Air Corps schools, so he enlisted in the Army Air Corps for four years. As Alan had summer jobs scheduled, working in the sardine packing plant, raking blueberries and picking potatoes in Aroostook County, he was postponed until November. He spent the next 14 weeks in basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. For almost two years, he took courses (now the US Air Force) in radio mechanics and direction finding. He was assigned to the 1st Mobile Radio Squadron. From California, he made a day trip across the Pacific by General Sutton USNS to Yokohama, Japan, where he was stationed at Johnson Air Force Base, a former Japanese base used for suicide training for Kamikazes.
There, the Korean conflict began. Alan volunteered to join a detachment to go to Korea. He was in North Korea about 15 miles from the Yalu River on the Chinese border when they invaded. He and several others flew aboard a C47 loaded with kerosene drums for Pyongyang, then for South Korea. He remained there until his return to California to receive an honorable discharge on July 8, 1951. He was a proud veteran of having been able to serve his country.
On his return home, Alan bought land and cut logs to build a house on Robbinston Ridge with the same great view of Passamoquoddy Bay and St Andrews in New Brunswick, Canada. This place was his home until 1962. While he lived there, it belonged to the Lion’s Club, the Red Men and the Barn. He has served on the school committee and the board of directors.
In 1952, he married the love of his life, Harriet Stanhope, whom he had known all his life. They had three children, Dennis and Kevin born in Calais and Vernon in Waterville. Alan had several odd jobs before working at Todd’s Hardware in Calais. When Ted Williams (yes, the famous Red Sox baseball player) came to Maine to visit his boyfriend, Bud Leavitt, he shopped at Todd’s. He always asked Al to wait for him. Alan remembers selling him a gun and a fly fishing rod.
In 1955, New England Tel & Tel recruited. Alan had the skills they were looking for. His first job was to set up telephone offices across Maine and Massachusetts. In 1962, he moved to technical maintenance of the central office of the Skowhegan telephone office. He studied, took oral exams all day and became a leading consultant technician responsible for all toll services in Somerset County. Alan replaced the supervisors during the holidays. He was offered supervisory positions on several occasions, but declined because he did not want to take personal time with his family. A coworker in another office said he would have a problem he couldn’t solve, but knew who to call, “Al always had the answer.” Alain retired in 1989.
Alan grew up in a family of musicians. He earned money by picking beans to buy a guitar and a bicycle. He learned to play the guitar and sang at public events. He also played the saxophone in the Stanhope Orchestra for the dances. After learning square dancing, he studied, taught and called dancers for the Arnold Trail Squares and several other clubs for many years. Alan and Harriet also taught ballroom dancing. He was a member of the Northeast Square Dance Callers and the Teachers Association. He continued with the Lions Club, working on many projects like the Skowhegan Fair for as long as he could, a member of the American Legion for 54 years, Telephone Pioneers and Skowhegan Federated Church where he served on many committees of church and as co-chair of the addition of the Sunday School and the renovation of Tewksbury Hall.
When Alan’s boys got involved with the Boy Scouts, so did he. Alan was a Cub master for troop 485, 10 years old. At a fall camporee in Jackman, he always said that “frying bacon for breakfast in a snowstorm was a lot of fun”. He has always been proud of his boy’s accomplishments, two were first class scouts and Vernon is an Eagle Scout.
Alan enjoyed family reunions, Lake Wesserunsett Camp, boating, water skiing, deep sea fishing off Eastport, gardening, woodworking, music and travel. He and Harriet visited Ireland (birthplace of his great-grandfather, Michael Burke), Hawaii, Alaska, Washington DC, Florida, many national parks and historic sites in the United States and Canada. .
Alan’s natural sense of humor and caring personality have made him a beloved presence in many lives. She was an exceptional person whom many were honored to have known. He was loved, admired and respected by all, and he will be dearly missed and never forgotten.
He will be remembered by his wife Harriet for almost 70 years; the children, the Rev. Dr. Denise Sudbeck, Aimee of Anchorage, Alaska, Vernon Burke of Skowhegan; grandchildren, Julie, Danielle, Nathan and Ellis; seven great-grandchildren; niece, Suzanne; nephews, Alan, Rick, Mike and David; Richard and Jessie Stanhope, Jean Stanhope, Anne Rider; and his cousins in Ohio; friends like family, Kenneth and Jane Brooks and those who called him Grampie. He was predeceased by his son Kevin and his mother Marion.
Alan and Harriet were fortunate to have the assistance of various caregivers during her illness and her final days. Special thanks to ALL for their support, allowing him to stay at home.
A funeral service with military honors will be held on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 11 a.m. at Robbinston Ridge Cemetery.
Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan ME 04976.
Please consider making donations in his memory to House in the Woods, 217 Skunk Hill Road, Lee, ME 04455, e-mail: http://www.houseinthewoods.org