Obituary of Martin P. Burke
Martin Peter Burke was born September 23, 1963. He was the ninth son of Mary and William l Burke. The family grew to a total of ten boys and one girl. Marty was raised on Wooster Street as part of a large Irish Catholic clan that included lots of cousins across the street. When he was born, his parents gathered the children around the crib to explain that he was special- he had Down’s syndrome. The reply from the brothers was a resounding, “So what!”
At 9 months, he suffered through major surgery on his heart that left a giant scar. Maybe it somehow kept his heart open, because his whole life was about love, connection, and having a good time. He went to schools in Newtown, as well as excellent programs in Florida, where he lived for a number of years before moving back to Bethel around 1990 to live with his brother, Roger.
Marty’s favorite things were writing and typing, making a speech to a big crowd, classic rock and country music - Johnny Cash and Elvis, old situation comedies like Happy Days and Love Boat, romance - he made a lot of proposals, socializing at happy hour with Roger, mini golf, bowling, Special Olympics, and eating his favorite foods like twinkies, scrambled eggs, or ice cream and chocolate sauce with Cool Whip at precisely 9:30 PM every night (‘no nuts!’). One year, Marty was the grand marshal of the town’s parade. In the 1970s, he was in a major motion picture, One Summer Love. He met movie stars and went to the White House. Years ago Bethel’s mayor declared an official “Marty Burke Day” in Bethel. He was very proud of that. He made legions of friends playing bocce and golf over many years living in Danbury and Bethel. He memorized phone numbers of all his and Roger’s friends. Together they organized a Toys for Tots drive. Marty really loved Christmas time. For someone so small, under 5 feet, his life was large! Walking anywhere with him revealed his popularity - in any store or on the sidewalk people would honk and yell, “Hey Marty!” And he’d wave back and smile, even in New York City. Sometimes when asked, ‘who was that?’, he’d shrug and say ‘I dunno’. He impacted everyone he met with his charming smile and incredible witty comebacks. The world was a better place with Marty in it.
He was predeceased by his parents, Mary Eileen and William, and by his brother Roger, and a baby sister who died in 1959. He is survived by his brothers, Bill (Madeline), Ed, Tim (Judy), Bob, Tom (Debbie), Brian (Amy), David (Heather), Richard Brendan, and his sister, Maryellen (Michael). He is also survived by dozens of loving cousins, nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews. Marty had special relationships with Debbie Burke, and his cousins, Mary Jean Boucher and Kathy Walsh. He is also survived by his family at the Valley View group home in Brookfield, CT including many loving staff from Ability Beyond, especially Darrien Smith. Special thank you from the family for the critical and caring roles that both Darrien Smith and Debbie Burke played in Marty’s care late in life.
Donations in his memory can be made to Ability Beyond. https://abilitybeyond.org/ways-to-give/ We will celebrate his big life at a big party on his 60th birthday.
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