“Everybody would come,” Polly Burke said. “The doors were always open.”
Granddaughter Katie Burke, 23, recalls how Burke would encourage the children to be creative at “The Castle.” An art wall showcased their work and prizes were given out to the best artists of the week. Grandpa’s candy drawer in his room and office were another favorite.
“All of his grandchildren would wear matching outfits,” Katie Burke said, laughing. “We’d get to ‘The Castle’ and he’d have boxes wrapped and there’d be these ornate dresses with bows and we’d take photos and we’d all look alike.”
By late 2005, the empire Burke had built began to crumble and within a few years the business became defunct. A stroke that year left Burke incapacitated.
In 2007, the company’s president, Burke’s son Daniel Burke, died of a drug overdose.
Also that year, the family put “the Castle” up for sale. It sold for nearly $8 million, but two years later, the abandoned home burned down.
A week later, son Joey Burke died in his sleep.
“It took a lot of wind out of his sails,” Polly Burke said of the series of events.
The Burkes moved into a new home on Pine Tree Drive, where Burke lived out his final years quietly.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, at Temple Beth David, 2625 SW Third Avenue, Miami. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered in the sea, where he spent a lifetime bringing others happiness.
“The most important thing for him,” Susan Burke said, “was to be passionate about anything he did.”