Photo 1987 by Phil Pool / Kavanaugh Studio
Longtime resident and community leader Eugene Burke died on Monday after a brief illness. Burke owned and operated Gene's Catering in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1955.
His daughter Lisa, who took over the business after her father retired five years ago, said Burke had a special fondness for the Santa Clarita Valley.
"He was crazy about this community," she said. "He thought it was a great community to raise his family."
Born Sept. 13, 1928, in Amarillo, Texas, Burke lived in rural Sand Canyon and raised his family of two girls, Cathy Langaard and Lisa, and two sons, Mike and Jim.
Mike is an electrician working at College of the Canyons while Cathy works with her sister in the catering business. Jim died at age 19.
Lisa said her dad, who owned a couple of horses, volunteered for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Posse.
Burke was a founding director of the former Valencia National Bank and a board member of the College of the Canyons Foundation. He was active with the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club, the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. He was also a primary supporter of Safe Rides, a volunteer organization that provides "confidential" rides home to teenagers on Friday and Saturday nights.
Kathleen Maloney, director of the COC Foundation, said Burke joined the foundation board in 1991 and served until 1997 when he was awarded the designation as Board Member Emeritus.
"He will be remembered as a longtime friend and generous donor to the Foundation," Maloney said. "He loved being associated with the College of the Canyons and was a loyal supporter of education and students."
John Reardon, former president of Valencia National Bank, now market president for Union Bank of California, remembers Burke as someone who cared about more than just the bottom line.
"Gene Burke was a very caring individual. When Gene looked at transactions they weren't just business transactions, they were personal," Reardon said. "He provided the old-time business philosophy that we would all like to see in this super sonic world we live in today.
"He did a lot of things behind the scenes to help people and charities. He did it because it was the right thing to do, not because he wanted any publicity."
Lisa said her father will be greatly missed by his family for his keen sense of humor, his business ethics and his love of his children.
"He always had a joke. He had a very funny sense of humor," she said. "He wasn't a firm believer in contracts. Everything was done on a handshake.
"He was my mentor and I miss him."
Services for Burke will be held on Saturday at noon at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary, 23287 Sierra Highway, Newhall. In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted for the Gene Burke Memorial Scholarship fund at College of the Canyons in care of the COC Foundation, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Valencia, CA 91355.