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January 2, 1941 – September 13, 2023

Bernard “Bernie” Burke, age 82, passed away peacefully in his home Wednesday morning, September 13, 2023, in St. Michael, MN.

He was born January 2, 1941, in Willmar, MN, to Ralph and Leona “Honey” (McGreer) Burke. He was raised in Willmar with his younger sisters Mary and Maureen.

During graduate school in St. Cloud, MN, he met Geneva Keppers, and after graduation, they married in Luxemburg, MN, on August 2, 1967. They lived in Atwater, MN, where he was a school principal and Geneva taught.

In 1970, Bernie was recruited by St. Michael-Albertville schools to be an elementary school principal. He had never heard of either town, but he accepted the position and moved his family to St. Michael where he saw that both towns had Catholic churches as the central feature.

He remained in the district for the rest of his career, retiring as principal of Albertville Primary School in 2007. Among other school activities, he sometimes umpired for softball and baseball games, coached baseball and basketball, and worked with the wrestling program. He served on the Great River Regional Library board and was part of the effort to get a public library in St. Michael.

Bernie enjoyed being involved in the lives of his children. He also spent a lot of time on investments and genealogy.

He called Vy Tran his brother. When Vy, his wife Nhu, and their family joined the Burke household for the summer of 1975, they were war refugees looking to build a life in America. A close relationship between the two families developed and is still strong and is a great blessing.

In 2016, Bernie received successful treatment for cancer, but the radiation greatly weakened him. His mind was always sharp, but he was increasingly homebound. He was grateful for the loving care Geneva provided for him, sometimes with assistance from his granddaughters. He died of natural causes.

Bernie is preceded in death by his parents and sister Maureen. He is survived by Geneva, his wife of 56 years, his children Daniel (Evonne) Burke of Golden Valley, Michael (Elaine) Burke of Boston, Maria (David) Waage of Zimmerman, and James Burke of Cedar Rapids, grandchildren Taylor, Laura, Rachel, Christine, Teresa, and Elijah, and his sister Mary (Donald) Emberland.


Thursday, September 21, 2023

4-7 P.M.

The Peterson Chapel St. Michael-Albertville Funeral Home

St. Michael, MN

Further visitation AT THE CHURCH on Saturday morning, September 23rd, 2023 one hour prior to Mass

Mass of Christian Burial:

Saturday, September 23rd, 2023

11:00 A.M.

St. Michael Catholic Church

St. Michael, MN


St. Michael Cemetery

In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested for Friends of St. Michael Library, St. Michael Fire Department or St. Michael American Legion Post #567

14 Guestbook Entries

  1. Lisa (Neuman) Newberger

    My deepest sympathy to Mr Burke’s family! He was such a remarkable man that had an amazing memory about people and events! I will be forever grateful that he hired me for my first teaching position at Albertville Primary! He was on the cutting edge in getting technology into the classrooms and advocated for his teachers and students. I will miss his impromptu phone calls and text messages! May he rest in peace!

  2. Joshua Fornelli

    Mr. Burke was the first administrator that I remember from school and he made a positive impact on me.

    Specifically I recall his support in learning to play chess. Curiously, we had a connection as he had been the college roommate of my great uncle, also an educator.

    Mr. Burke was certainly one of the individuals in my formative years that convinced me that education was for me. As he knew, we are all interconnected and can help bring each other success.

    My condolences to the family. He was a great man.

  3. Darrell Skogen

    Sorry to hear that Bernie has passed this week. I had many memorable talks with him throughout our careers at STMA. He was a good friend who will be missed by those who knew him well.

  4. Terry Zerwas

    My Condolences to the Family of Bernie! I worked with Mr. Burke and was always amazed with his memories of ALL events and things that pertained to his school.
    He cared for ALL of his kids!! RIP❤️🙏

  5. Josh

    Great guy to know with a quick & witty sense of humor. I remember he was very diligent.

  6. Brendan

    A wonderful man who dedicated his life to education and literacy. He enriched the lives of so many and left behind a meaningful legacy. He will be greatly missed. My condolences to the Burke family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

  7. Eli

    Wonderful man and always generous with his knowledge and time. Thank you and rest in peace.

  8. Deb Spencer

    Dear Geneva and family,

    I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Burke’s passing. I will always be thankful for his support to me when I first started working in STMA. I appreciated his support to ECFE and Bright Beginnings. We shared many chuckles.

    Sending my thoughts and prayers with all of you during this difficult time.

  9. Leann Judge Greene

    He enriched the lives of many and adored his family. Condolences to all.

  10. Steve, Marion, Aaron, Holly & Logan Conwell Conwell

    Dear Geneva and family,
    I bet our family had something that no one else had, a photo of Mr. Burke on our Dining Room wall!
    Our son was transitioning from the autism program in Elk River to STMA . We copied photos of Mr. Burke, the school nurse and his new teacher to help him remember their names and hung them on the wall.
    Mr. Burke did so much for the District, his students and his staff. He made the world a better place.

  11. Marcia Ziegler

    Geneva and family. My sympathy to all of you. Bernie was a dedicated educator. He was so much a part of STMA

  12. Penny Dailey Johnson

    Bernie’s family lived next to my family when he was growing up. He always had lots of hobbies and interests. He did very well in his career and from reading various comments made quite an impact on his students and their parents. me
    I somehow think he is busy in Heaven meeting various famous baseball players!
    Rest in Peace Bernie! Sounds like a life well lived!

  13. Ronald Skon

    A week ago today, the world lost a very kind and caring person…and I lost one of my best friends. 33 years ago, I met Bernard Burke at the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Bernie, Principal at Albertville Primary School in Albertville, Minnesota, had accepted my offer to share a hotel room with me, a former Minnesota principal in the Mounds View School District and then a principal in the Mesa School District in Arizona. We had not met before, yet quickly became good friends, staying together at future yearly principal conventions all around the country until Bernie retired in 2007. Bernie taught me the fine art of working the exhibit hall and together we became experts at acquiring free supplies and educational materials for our schools, hundreds of dollars worth at each convention. 😜 After I retired in 2011, we begin to meet for lunch whenever I flew up regularly from Arizona, mostly at the Albertville Culver’s. The tradition continued after Bernie was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago. While the cancer was put in remission, the radiation treatment used had weakened his whole body, leading to his eventual death. As of this past May, he could not get out of his bed and his speech was very impaired. Despite all, we continued to enjoy great fellowship at his home with his dear wife, Geneva, by bringing food in from Culver’s. Bernie was incredibly intelligent to the end, sharing advice about life, as we reminisced about our past adventures. My life has, indeed, become remarkably better because of my friendship with Bernie! Since 1990 I have grown to appreciate all that he has brought to his school, his church, his community, but most important to his family that he loved so dearly! I will miss you, my friend! ❤️

  14. Michael Verhulst-President of the Friends of the Library

    Bernie helped our towns to get their own building by securing a large grant. We will always be better people after having met him and worked with him. The Friends of the Library appreciate all Bernie has done for our group and all library users in the State of Minnesota. Because of Bernie, you can request material from any library in the state using your local library card. It’s amazing how one person can change access for so many. He is missed.


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