William T. Burke, co-founder of Burke Furniture, died Monday at age 88. Mr. Burke started the business 54 years ago with his late wife, Joann.
The Burkes founded the store at 2950 Richmond Road in 1963 and owned it together until her death in 2004. William Burke had turned over the running of the Lexington furniture store to their sons in the 1970s. The store rode the wave of new subdivisions and growth, fueled in part by IBM’s expansion before it became Lexmark.
Mr. Burke was a native of Fayette County and a graduate of Lafayette High School.
“He was probably the hardest-working farmer I ever knew,” said his son, Bill Burke Jr. “He loved to be out in the dirt. He had farms in Bourbon County, Scott County and in Fayette County, and when he was young man in Jessamine County, he mainly raised cattle at the end, until he couldn’t handle the herd any more. ... He was always growing a vegetable garden somewhere and would come to the store and do all our plantings. ... If it was outside, he didn’t mind taking it on. He loved painting our building.”
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Mr. Burke is survived by his second wife, Clara, and a sister, Helen Fox of North Vernon, Ind.; four sons, Bill, Louis, David and Richard, all of Lexington; two daughters, Carol Gott of Atlanta and Mary Burke of Madisonville; and four stepchildren, Mary Laile of Lexington, John Luigart of Lexington, Chris Luigart of Lexington, and Dr. Laura Luigart of Louisville. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Cathedral of Christ the King, 299 Colony Boulevard. Visitation is 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kerr Brothers on Main Street in Lexington.