1950 - 2005
Chi-Town Squares member since 1993
BY MONIFA THOMAS Staff Reporter
As a child growing up on Chicago's South Side, Larry Burke loved going with his grandfather to watch the trains rumble down the tracks. When he grew up, Mr. Burke spent countless hours traveling by train across the country.
"There were only three segments of the Amtrak train system he hadn't traveled," said Mr. Burke's partner of 16 years, Rob Sierzega.
Mr. Burke died Feb. 8 of liver cancer at his home in Lake View. He was 54.
His Amtrak knowledge was so detailed, "you could say, 'Larry, I'm going to Seattle on a train,' and he would say, 'This is the side you want to sit on so you can see this, this and that,' " Sierzega said.
Mr. Burke's favorite destination was New York City, where he and Sierzega often went to see musical theater performances.
As a member of the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus for 18 years, Mr. Burke enjoyed making music.
"Larry liked the range," Sierzega said. "They did everything from 'These Boots Were Made for Walking' to the execution scene from 'The Dialogue of the Carmelites.' "
Every four years, members of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses, which includes groups from the United States, Canada and Europe, came together for a week of performances. Mr. Burke, who sang lower bass, coordinated five of these events.
"Sometimes it would be very frustrating, but it never occurred to him to give up on it," longtime friend Lois McGovern said. "I always admired his commitment to things."
Mr. Burke also was a square dancer with Chi-Town Squares since 1993.
"He had a zest for life, and that was wonderful to be around," McGovern said.
A graduate of Leo High School, Mr. Burke received a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's in education administration from Illinois State University. He taught junior high science and geography in the Chicago area before going to work in the city's financial district at the Chicago Board Options Exchange.
Mr. Burke also was an administrator in the student teaching office at Illinois State University.
After being diagnosed with cancer last winter, Mr. Burke retired from Marco Consulting Group, where he worked as a data liaison.
Mr. Burke is survived by his father, John, and his brother, David.
Larry Burke and I started dancing with Chi-Town Squares in the fall of 1993, after much encouragement from Phil Davis, Steve Varley, Steve Wellman, and a few other square dancers. Over the years we have made a lot of close friends through the group. From the beginning, Larry and I both loved square dancing for the fun, exercise, and challenge of it all. He often amazed me with his willingness to go to a dance even if he wasn't feeling too strong. As most of you know, he could always sit and chat with everyone if he wasn't up to dancing a tip!
Larry also felt that it is important that Chi-Town be a positive presence to break down barriers at the twice a year MCASD dances. Not through confrontation, but just by dancing with everyone, and welcoming others to join our squares. Attitudes have changed a lot since we first started dancing. We even got to be the "Sweetheart" couple from Chi-Town on our 15th anniversary.
I cherish the memories that Larry and I had together as members of Chi-Town Squares. Along with local dances, we traveled to local fly-ins and to many of the IAGSDC Conventions over the years. Square dancing vacations gave us a lot of wonderful memories of great dancing, Bathing Beauty silliness, endless Honky Tonk Queen Contests, more dancing, and wonderful times spent with our friends, new and old.
I am glad that I was able to share 16 years with such a wonderful man.
— Rob Sierzega