Kenneth Wayne Burke

Kenneth Wayne BurkeKenneth Wayne “Ken” Burke was born July 20, 1934, and died March 4, 2019.

According to his mother, Ken’s arrival was a lucky accident when he was born into a family of dirt-poor sharecroppers in the tiny east Texas hamlet of Bailey during the Great Depression.

Ken naturally excelled at academics from grade school through college even though he was the first in his family to attend high school.

Ken grew into a big, strong country boy who dominated the athletic record book at his high school alma mater.

Shortly after being recruited for civilian service by the Navy, Ken married his lifelong love, Juanita, in 1956. After Ken graduated from the mathematics program at the University of Oklahoma, he and his new bride traveled old Route 66 from Norman, Okla., to California to embrace their new life in the high desert, surrounded by majestic mountains at remote China Lake.

Ken worked more than 33 years as a physicist contributing his analytical expertise to a variety of Navy missile programs at the place he knew fondly during his early career as the Naval Ordnance Test Station and later as the Naval Weapons Center.

During leisure hours Ken loved sports activities and competed regularly in basketball, volleyball, softball and bowling and spectated nearly every sport, especially cheering on with bis booming voice the incredible Burroughs High School Burros — especially when their sons competed — and the Oklahoma University Sooners (“Boomer Sooner!”).

Ken and Juanita regularly traveled to competitions far from home to support their teams. Ken loved collecting, particularly coins and stamps, as well as historical periodicals and unusual ephemera. He also loved logical and mathematical puzzles and games, including contact bridge, and encouraged his sons to think carefully and deeply. More than anything else, Ken loved his family and his wonderful life in the Mojave Desert and reveled in the achievements of his wife and two sons.

After the death of his beloved Juanita, Ken relocated to Monterey in 2011 to live in an assisted-living facility near his eldest son, Bob.

Ken enjoyed the esprit de corps of group living and, in turn he was loved by residents and administrators alike because he emerged as a gregarious giant who livened up every activity. Despite his diminished memory due to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, he enthusiastically sang with his Texas twang to all the Golden Oldies songs and aced the ancient trivia contests.

Ken was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Ruth Burke; wife, Juanita Burke; and younger son, Don Burke.

His is survived by his son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Cherry Burke; and his grandson, Rome Burke.

As per Ken’s wishes, his cremains will be combined with those of Juanita and scattered in his most cherished places amidst Giant Sequoias and Sierra Nevada mountaintops.

— Submitted by the family of Ken Burke

Story First Published: 2019-05-24