LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – A long-time civic leader and co-founder of the Burke Center died this morning. Ward Burke, was 94 years old. A graduate of Lufkin High School and the University of Texas, Burke will be remembered for his passion and efforts to help those with disabilities.
Born in 1916, Ward Rankin Burke spent most of his life serving others.
"He served his country as a Marine in the second world war, he served Angelina County as a district attorney and he was just like a rock. He was there, he was always there for everybody. Anybody in need who needed help could go to Ward Burke" life-long friend Buddy Temple said.
Burke had a passion for serving those subject to mental retardation or mental illness.
"He also was fundamental in getting special needs classes set up at Lufkin ISD and then worked at SFA to create college classes for people so they could learn how to help people with special needs" Lynn Hopper of the Lufkin State Supported Living Center said.
He co-founded the Burke Center and his work helped create the Lufkin State-Supported Living Center.
"Lufkin State Supported Living Center, has 430 people that benefit from a vision that he had years ago" Lynn Hopper said.
The "Eagle Award"and the "Angelina Award" are just two recognitions of his contributions.
"Ward never wanted any recognition. He just did things because it was the right thing to do. He never expected to be recognized or memorialized in any way" Buddy Temple said.
Together with his wife of 63 years, the late Anna Belle Dill Burke, they strived to improve the lives of mentally challenged individuals.
"There are not many people in the world as Ward and Anna Belle Burke. They were very community minded and stood for so much good in this community" life-long friend Bettie Kennedy said.
His legacy will live on.
"He was probably the finest man I've ever known he was a true gentleman" Buddy Temple said.
"His name will live on, yes it will" Bettie Kennedy said.
Memorial services will be held Monday at 4p.m. at Lufkin First United Methodist Church. Burke's family has requested that no food or flowers be sent. Instead, memorials can be made to First United Methodist Church or to the Lufkin workshop and opportunity center.