John E. Burke, Sr., of Waltham, died peacefully on Sunday, November 19, 2023, in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his loving family after a brief illness. He was 94 years old.
Born in Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland on December 18, 1928, John was the son of Thaddeus (“Ted”) and Mary Kate (Dolan) Burke. After emigrating from Ireland to the United States at the age of 10 months on the SS Thuringia, John was raised in Waltham and graduated from St. Charles High School, class of 1946, where he played the position of center for the school’s football team.
John and his future wife, Susan (“Sue”) Spirio - the love of his life - met as teenagers, both living on different ends of Alder St. in Waltham’s south side neighborhood. They married on July 2, 1949 and remained in Waltham where they raised their eight children.
John spent many years in the supermarket business with First National Stores, starting at one of their local Waltham stores. He worked primarily in the meat department, working as meat cutter, manager, and eventually an area supervisor and “Specialist”.
In his retirement, John spent summers with his wife Sue at their second home in South Yarmouth, Cape Cod. This was John’s favorite place to be. While on the Cape, John loved working in the yard, tending to his vegetable garden, playing cribbage with Sue, relaxing with a good book or crossword puzzle on their deck and walking his dog, Kelsey. In the years following Sue’s death in 2021, John continued to spend many months on the Cape where going to the beach every morning for walks, taking outdoor showers (regardless of the temperature), and seeing his many neighborhood and church friends continued to be part of his daily routine.
Whether in Waltham or down the Cape, John was a regular at the two churches he attended – Sacred Heart in Waltham and St. Pius X in South Yarmouth. Religion was a very important part of his life and he attended Mass multiple days per week. Saturday afternoon four o’clock Mass was always followed by dinner with family at one of his many favorite local restaurants.
An avid Boston Sports fan, John especially loved watching the Red Sox and Celtics. He rarely missed a game on TV and also had attended many in person. His favorite of all the Boston sports figures was Ted Williams. He would love to share stories and reminisce of the times he saw Williams play. A true Boston sports fan, even his favorite players were not spared from being in his doghouse the next time they struck out or missed a 3-pointer.
John also loved playing golf and continued to play into his 90’s. He proudly displayed certificates from the 2 holes-in-one he shot at the Twin Brooks Golf Course in Hyannis, where he was a member for many years. WWII history was another of John’s favorite Interests. He had many books on the subject and was sure to watch any time one of his favorite WWII movies would be on TV.
John will be remembered for many amazing qualities. He had a great sense of humor - his “Dad” jokes never failed to generate a laugh (or a groan). What made him happiest was cooking for his family. He was the family “chef” and kept his recipes closely guarded.
In addition to his parents and his wife Sue, John was predeceased by his sisters Veronica (“Rhona”) Boyd, Kathleen Wilson, Joan Burke , all of Waltham, Mary (“Myra”) McManus of Lexington, his son-in-law Joseph Callahan of Billerica and his beloved dog, Kelsey.
The only thing more important in John’s life than his faith was his family. John is survived by his eight children, John Burke and his partner Rick Arnaud of Hudson, Mary Callahan of Billerica, Tom Burke and his wife Janice of Waltham, Susan Burke of Norwood, Jayne Marzano of Waltham, Michael Burke and his husband Neil Gannon-Burke of Waltham, Ted Burke of Napa, CA, and David Burke and his partner Cristina Matthews of Franklin; fourteen grandchildren, Billy Huber, Stephanie Cadenhead, Jaime McManus, Tommy Marzano, Jeff Marzano, Tommy Burke, Kevin Burke, Shawn Burke, Michelle Keniston, Christopher Burke, Allison Burke, Debbie Callahan, Susan Doherty, and Joseph Callahan; seventeen great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
Family and friends will honor and remember John’s life by gathering for calling hours on Sunday, November 26th from 2 to 5 p.m. and again at 9 a.m. on Monday morning before leaving in procession to Sacred Heart Church, 311 River Street, Waltham where his Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Burial will be in Mount Feake Cemetery, Waltham.
Those wishing to view the broadcast (and recording) of John's Mass please use this link: https://my.gather.app/remember/john-burke-2023
Memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/ , Sacred Heart Church, Waltham, https://www.sacredheart311.com/ or to Saint Pius X Church, South Yarmouth, https://www.stpiusxsy.com/ .