John Kelly Burke (71), of New Canaan, Connecticut passed away at home on September 8, 2023, after a courageous five-month diagnosis with bulbar-onset ALS.
John, fondly referred to as JB, JKB or Cheese to name a few appropriate-to-print nicknames, was born to Francis and Betty Burke on August 20, 1952 in Evanston, Illinois.
He was a jokester, getting kicked out of his second-grade class for taunting his teacher for mistakenly saying his last name incorrectly — Fran told him, “Don’t let anyone call you Burkey.” John spent his childhood years starting his collection of jokes, drumming for his band The Junior Beatles and running around outside with kids on his block in Carpentersville, Illinois.
John attended Western Illinois University, or as he and his brother Mike called it, “Harvard of the Midwest,” where his love of sales and marketing blossomed. Creating in-depth business plans for both practical and hilariously impractical ideas alike. John worked for several different businesses before meeting his partner in crime Harvey Marcus. The two formed the successful Convenience Concepts company, which John also referred to as his third child, in 2005.
He met the love of his life, Amy at Rory’s Restaurant on September 7, 1985, after he had noticed his bride-to-be commuting on the train to Grand Central numerous times. He had overheard Amy saying she was from Crystal Lake, Illinois on the commute and approached her at the bar with that learned information. Amy was taken aback by his forward introduction and the couple wed on February 21, 1987 at Waveny House. The couple later welcomed two daughters who were John’s pride, joy and sometimes the cause of his headaches — the rest is history.
In between growing his furniture empire, he was also seen coaching along the sidelines of his daughter’s basketball and softball teams, walking with his four-legged best friends in Waveny Park, traveling the world from the Grand Canyon to the Great Wall of China, taking photos of anything and everything, sharing his love of World War II, swimming laps or riding his bike, consistently taking care of his family and toasting with a double Jack Daniels on the rocks.
John is survived by his wife Amy and his two daughters, Emma (son-in-law, Patrick) and Madison. He is also survived by his mother, brother, Michael, an extensive list of extended family and equally as important, friends like Tim and Connie Brown that have become family. John was predeceased by his father, his brother, Terry and his cousin, Bill who also battled ALS.
John was extremely passionate about paying it forward. He was the first to lend a helping hand to a family in need, care for those who had no one to care for them and he donated to organizations such as, but not limited to, Smile Train and Wounded Warriors.
The family will be hosting celebrations of life in New Canaan, Connecticut on November 18 as well as Longboat Key, Florida later this winter. Please stay tuned for details as the family continues to mourn and grieve the loss of their larger-than-life hero.
Lastly, the family would like to thank the remarkable individuals who helped them during this time, including Wanite Petion, Chris Curtain, Rachel, Dr. Merit Cudkowicz with her outstanding team at Mass General and Dr. Kirsten Hohmann at Stamford Health who all treated John and his family with continued compassion, dignity and care.
In honor of John’s admirable fight against this devastating disease, the family has asked to make donations to The Healey Center for ALS at Mass General (address: Massachusetts General Hospital Development Office, Attention: E. Monterio, 125 Nashua Street, Suite 540, Boston, MA 02114) or donate online at giving.massgeneral.org/healeycenter or to the Compassionate Care ALS organization at cclals.org/donate.
John’s hope for you all would be to listen to your body, advocate for your well-being, never take no for an answer and if you have the chance to sit it out or dance — dance.