Dr. May Edwin Burke, who taught at several schools and became head of the home economics department at Lake Clifton High School, died of a stroke Sunday at her Owings Mills home. She was 92.
Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., she was the daughter of James Mann and his wife, Lillie.
Known as Edwin, she was a 1942 graduate of Howard High School. She obtained a home economics degree at then-Hampton Institute in Virginia, now Hampton University, and was a member of the Phyllis Wheatley Club. She also belonged to the Kappa Alpha Kappa Sorority.
She later received a master’s degree in home economics at Howard University and a doctorate at the University of Maryland, College Park. She was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honors society.
“She was a Southern belle, studied piano and was an accomplished musician,” said her daughter, Dr. Melanie Malone Burke, a dentist who resides is Stevenson. “Her mantra was ‘A woman should be prepared to work, even if she does not have to.’ ”
Dr. Burke moved to to Annapolis and worked alongside her sister, Emily Johnson Buford, at the pharmacy their father owned.
“Her father established it to help black patients obtain medicine and medical supplies locally, rather than travel long distances to find other shops that were willing to serve African-Americans,” her daughter said.
She said Dr. Burke lived in Arundel on the Bay, where she hosted social gatherings. She spent time crabbing and fishing on the Chesapeake Bay. She also owed a skiff she called the Emma Giles, a reference to a once well-known Chesapeake Bay steamer.
She also spent time at the African-American-owned resort, Carr’s Beach, and visited Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue entertainment district. She heard jazz musicians at the Sphinx Club and took in Comedy Club acts.
In 1960 she was introduced to Allen H. “Dickie” Burke Sr., a Frederick Douglass High School football team captain and a Baltimore City Police Department detective.
“Dickie was visiting Arundel on the Bay to attend a party hosted by mutual friends,” her daughter said. “Friends recall that, instantly, he knew he would marry her. He carried a marriage certificate in his pocket for six months while they were courting.”
They were married in April 1960 in a Baltimore civil ceremony.
Dr. Burke initially taught at the Bates Junior High School in Annapolis. After moving to Baltimore, she joined the faculty of Woodbourne Junior High School in Northeast Baltimore. She later served as chair of the home economics department at Garrison Junior High School, Calverton Junior High School, Northern Parkway Junior High School and Lake Clifton High School.
She retired nearly 30 years ago.
She also worked alongside her husband in the youth recreation program he founded, called Operation Champ.
She was also a member of Jack and Jill of America. She enjoyed cards and was a founding member of a bridge club known as Les Filles de Mercredi, which met for dinner and competitive matches for more than 50 years. She also competed in other bridge groups.
She was also a florist. Her daughter recalled she made numerous floral arrangements for the social events of the Epsilon Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She was a member of the gardening club known as For-Winn-Ash, whose members lived in Forest Park, Windsor Mill, and Ashburton neighborhoods.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 3200 Walbrook Ave., where she was an elder, deacon, trustee and Sunday school teacher.
“She could captivate young children when she played hymns on the piano,” said her daughter. “She was an integral part of the Presbyterian Women’s ministry for many years.”