US Marine Corps

Harry Robert Burke

February 9, 1935 ~ July 23, 2022 (age 87)


Harry Robert Burke, born on February 9, 1935, to the late Harry R. Burke and Dorothy Short Burke of Bonanza, Kentucky. He was born in Catlettsburg, Kentucky at the home of his uncle, Dr. Estill Burke and his wife, Vida Burke. As the story goes, Harry’s mother, Dorothy, had made the family a chocolate cake. She felt a few labor pains and quickly realized she was going into labor. Harry was born and everyone enjoyed the cake as it was still warm. The story of his birth is much like the story of his life. Harry made an entrance anywhere he went and everyone quickly knew their lives had been changed.


Harry married the love of his life and spouse for 64 years, Barbara Kay Reed Burke. Together they shared a life few can imagine. They built a family, played bridge, traveled and kept all who knew them laughing. The had a daughter, Jennifer Burke Elliott, who gave them 2 grandsons, Burke Franklin Garner and Alexander Reed Garner.


Harry worked and retired from Columbia Gas and many friends and stories came from that employment. But, anyone who knows Harry knows his love was being a Kentucky High School referee. He called the KHSAA basketball state finals twice and the KHSAA football state finals 3 times. After, his career as an active referee was over, he remained connected with KHSAA. Most state tournaments, you could find Harry sitting with Commissioner Billy Wise in Rupp Arena critiquing the games. He also mentored and followed active referees throughout his life. It is said that he was one of the best referees to ever call a game.


Harry went into service for the United States Marine Corp in 1957 and served over two years. He graduated from basic training at Parris Island, S.C. and was very proud of having completed that training and proud of the Marine Corp. Many people, to this day, just refer to him as “Marine”. After basic training, he spent time at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Camp Geiger on Lejeune’s base. After that, he finished his service at Cherry Point, N.C. He was able to have Barbara join him at Camp Lejeune where they lived in married couples’ housing. Barbara become employed as the head secretary for the Marine General over Camp Lejeune. Harry explained he would not be visiting her at her office too often as he would have to salute too many superiors.


Harry built his life with Barbara at 567 North Arnold Avenue where they welcomed a daughter, Jennifer, on October 22, 1963. At age 2, Jennifer was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis and the prognosis was given that she would not walk. Harry was having no part of that diagnosis. He searched and searched and found a specialist at John’s Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland where he and Barbara immediately took Jennifer. After three months, Jennifer was released to go home in leg casts. Her treatment was successful. Harry was often quoted as saying his proudest moment in life was finding Dr. Markovitz to “fix” Jennifer.


The legends and stories of Harry Robert Burke will live on forever in his family and friends. Harry and was so proud of his grandsons and absolutely thrilled to become a great grandfather to Langston Katherine Garner (Burke) and Anna Elizabeth Garner (Alex and Alley). He delighted in watching the girls play and grow. Then came his great grandson, Benjamin Reed Garner (Alex and Alley) and he was so excited. These great grandchildren along with Baylee and Brooke (Phillip William and Brandy) were great sources of pleasure in life. Some of Harry’s best times were spent watching western’s with Phillip and sports with Burke and Alex.


Harry’s beautiful wife, Barbara predeceased him along with his sister, Helen. He leaves a daughter, Jennifer Burke Elliott (Phillip) and two grandsons and their children, Burke Franklin Garner of Prestonsburg, Kentucky, father of great granddaughter, Langston Katherine Garner and Alexander Reed Garner (Alley) of East Point, Kentucky, father of great grandchildren, Anna Elizabeth Garner and Benjamin Reed Garner. Through a blended family that he loved, he had a grandson, Phillip William Elliott (Brandy) of Lexington, Kentucky, father of great granddaughters Camryn Baylee Kinsey and Audrey Brooke Elliott.


Harry is also survived by his brother in law, Mark Kenneth Reed Jr. (Mary) of Lexington, Kentucky and their son, Mark Kenneth Reed, III.


Harry is also survived by a niece, Susan Wells Holderby (Jeff) of Prestonsburg, Kentucky and her children, Erin Howell Burchett (Paul, Jr.) of Prestonsburg, Kentucky and their children, Elizabeth, Anna, Lyle and Avery. Thomas Andrew Howell of Louisville, Kentucky and his son, Gray.


Funeral service will be conducted Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 11:00 a.m. in the Hall Funeral Home Chapel with Alexander Reed Garner officiating. Burial will follow in the Davidson Memorial Gardens, Ivel, KY, visitation is from 6 until 9 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home, under direction of the Hall Funeral Home, Martin, Kentucky.

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July 27, 2022

6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Hall Funeral Home
331 KY Route 122
Martin, KY 41649

Funeral Service
July 28, 2022

11:00 AM
Hall Funeral Home
331 KY Route 122
Martin, KY 41649

Video is available for this event

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