James Thomas Burke (1947 – 2020)

(James Burke is Jaime Burke’s (violin) Dad.)

“Row, row, row your boat…” James Thomas Burke, a former Kent resident, passed away July 31, 2020, in Manning, South Carolina.

Jim and his wife, Juanita Boston Burke, moved to the bright sunny state of South Carolina nine years ago. They made numerous trips back to Ohio to visit family and friends but, as Jim would announce to all, “I need to return to the south to warm my knees.” Jim fought a courageous battle with cancer for over 30 years. He never complained of his illness, or missed work during treatments, and continued his courageous fight through many recent setbacks. Jim’s strength and good humor were truly inspiring. He always greeted other patients at treatment centers with words of encouragement, a friendly smile and oftentimes a joke or two.

Jim was born to Margaret Conroy Burke and Raymond Eugene Burke on July 28, 1947, in Auburn, Washington. He spent most of his youth in the Akron-Tallmadge area and developed a passion for weightlifting in his last years of high school. Prior to his 1965 graduation from Tallmadge HS, he participated in the ACMWL (American College of Modern Weightlifting) in Akron.

Jim won several competitions taking top honors in the Teenage State Championship and a Tri-State Regional Championship in his 148- weight class. During college he was an accomplished weightlifter excelling in the bench press and the clean and jerk. Jim secured another 1st place at a meet in Ravenna, Ohio, with his wife and young daughter there to cheer him on.

He often made workouts part of his lunch breaks and included weight training in his wellness regimen whenever his health allowed. Likewise, he encouraged his children and grandchildren to participate in weight training and offered pointers and lessons on good form.

Jim was employed at Smithers Oasis in Kent. He began his career there in the late 60’s working night shifts on the factory floor while attending Kent State University. He retired from their research and development department after forty years of employment.

He graduated from KSU in 1970 with a Degree in Psychology and returned to KSU later in life to take graduate courses in mathematics. While attending KSU as an undergraduate student, he met his wife, Juanita. Married in August of 1967, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 2017.

Jim was an avid reader. His love of learning continued throughout his life and his diversity in knowledge gave him many opportunities to greet people and easily make new friends.

Because of his profound empathy, Jim was passionate about working with others who were struggling. On several occasions, Jim volunteered his time to tutor youths as well as adults. He was the family and friend “go to person” for help with computer issues. Uncle Jim, aka Grandpa Tony, was always up for a game of B-Ball or a foot race and often amazed younger family members with his jumping abilities, speed and agility.

Jim leaves behind his beloved wife, Juanita, of Manning SC; devoted children, daughter and son-in-law, Jennifer Burke and Greg Sutton, of Dublin, Ohio, daughter, Jamie Burke, of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and son, Jason Burke, also of Dublin, Ohio; he is also survived by grandsons, Justin and Jacob and granddaughter, Allison, all of Ohio. Jim is survived by a sister, Kathleen Henault, of Ohio and one brother, Dennis Burke, of Washington. He was an uncle to four nieces and three nephews, and a great-uncle to twelve. Also surviving him, his brother-in-law, Rand Boston (Judy) of Ohio. Besides his parents; Jim was preceded in death by two sisters, Mary Johnson and Bernadette Burke. Also preceding him in death were two nephews as well as one great nephew and one great niece.

Jim is remembered by his neighbors and friends in his South Carolina community as a person with a warm smile and a great sense of humor and remembered by many as showing kindness to those he met. Jim is loved and sadly missed by family and friends. Condolences may be shared with the family at 703 Oak Hill Dr. Manning, SC, 29102 and memorials may be made to Jim’s favorite charities, [St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, or to Lymphoma Research. A celebration of life will be planned for a future date.