Bernard James Burke

Bernard James Burke, a retired liquor salesman and avid sports fan who coached and supported various children's teams and community and school athletic programs over the years, died of respiratory failure Jan. 17 at his home in the Mays Chapel section of Baltimore County. He was 92.

Born and raised in Baltimore, he was a 1932 graduate of City College and as a young man played semi-pro baseball.


He joined the Army Medical Corps, but after being diagnosed with tuberculosis was medically discharged before World War II. After recovering in a sanitarium, he became a wholesale liquor salesman for Pierce & Hebner and later for Kronheim Co., a Baltimore-area company where he retired in 1985.

Mr. Burke established the Catholic Youth Organization baseball team at Immaculate Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church in Baynesville in the early 1950s.


He later coached his children's teams and was a supporter of the Cockeysville and Lutherville recreation athletic program, as well as teams at Dulaney and Calvert Hall College high schools.

"He also supported the lacrosse programs at Towson University, Lycoming College, Villa Julie College and the University of New Hampshire. He was also a Notre Dame fan," said a daughter, Laurie A. Burke of New York City. "He once attended seven different games in one day."

Mr. Burke moved to Mays Chapel in 2003, after more than 40 years in Timonium's Springlake community where he was known for being generous with his time and energy.

At Christmas, he played Santa Gramps for neighborhood children and pupils at a nearby nursery school.

"He gave his heart wholly to the neighborhood and community. There he became a surrogate brother, father, grandfather and uncle to all who needed one," Ms. Burke said. "For years, he left out Cokes for the garbage men, fed neighbors' dogs, and cared for the elderly."

During his last days, Mr. Burke's home was full of well-wishers, family members said. "He joked that it was 'a pretty good turnout.' There was lots of laughing, crying, storytelling and singing of the Notre Dame fight song," Ms. Burke said.

Mr. Burke was a communicant of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Cockeysville.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Saturday at the Nativity of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church in Timonium.


Also surviving are his wife of 57 years, the former Joanne McElveney; two sons, John "Duffy" Burke of Middle River and Michael J. Burke of Timonium; three other daughters, Mary Jo Huber of Cockeysville, Ellen K. Burke of Lutherville and Barbara B. Leland of Timonium; and 15 grandchildren.