Sunday, September 21, 2008

Remembering Michele Burk

Our great friend and a most wonderful woman, Michele Burk, passed away over the weekend Summer turns into Fall.

Shock and grief have found its way into so many lives with the terrible news.

Michele was found in her bed by two of her closest friends (which she had so many of) early Saturday evening.

Telephone calls and Emails flooded communication lines as the sad news continued to spread.

As we move through the grieving processes for ourselves and others, it is hope that we will be able to someday celebrate such a remarkable person and the inspiration she provided to all who knew her.

The memorial service for Michele has been scheduled.

Saturday October 25, 2008


Forest Lawn Memorial Chapel

1500 E. San AntonioLong Beach, CA 90807

Phone: 1-800-204-3131

There are plans for a gathering of friends after the memorial service and I will post that event when it becomes confirmed.

To consider Michele as being remarkable is not even the tip of the top of the iceberg.

Her talents did not match her size, they overwhelmed it.

Her ability to give to others without needing honoring, thanks, or other considerations is something we all must try to continue to do in her place.

We all are better people for knowing, learning from, and loving Michele.

And we all have stories to tell.

Three incredible women, Barbara Dragich, Michele Burk, and Janice Hahn did something that could not be done.

They led the way to accomplish a feat that was impossible from the start, but that did not stop them.

When the time comes that the corner of 20th Street and Walker Avenue in San Pedro is complete with single-family homes on all four corners, you will view just one legacy of these three great women.

What you will not find is a multi-story apartment of condo structure and you have Michele, Barbara, and Janice to thank for spearheading the effort that was considered undoable.

The Story of the "Q" Condition is one of the latter stories in a life filled with volumes of items and tidbits that Michele was involved with.

Others will have story after story on Michele's tenure with the San Pedro High School's Lady Boosters' Organization.

Michele was a past President of that group, having served several terms but not having to serve a term as a parent.

Well, that last sentence is not quite true.

Chuy, her chow-chow could have a book written just about himself.

Pretty Boy, Michele's Siamese cat was a wonderful companion and 'kid' to Michele, too.

Michele was the reunion rock for "The Mystics" San Pedro High School Class of 1972.
Her organizational skills allowed her to accomplish so many successful reunions for the largest class ever to graduate from San Pedro High School. (1053-graduates)

Michele was also the "co-finder"/"disorganizer" every year of The Gathering of "The Crowd" and Friends Picnic. For the picnic held last August, she greeted alumni from a booth inside "Taste in San Pedro" and provided everyone who asked, answers to some of the most obscure questions about San Pedro High School and its alumni that could be asked.

Watching Michele laugh and enjoy something was a pure treat. She liked funny things and Terri and I loved here smile.

Michele was "aunt" to our Cookie and Cookie relished every moment she spent with Michele. (Cookie also enjoyed the treats Michele would bring with her.)

Tributes will be pouring in for Michele. I was glad that she felt good about her work with the Vista Del Oro Neighbors Against Condos.

Michele didn't do things for thank yous and gratitude, but when she felt she was appreciated by her works, she was very pleased.

Boy, she sure had quite a lot of works going on and completed.

Other sides of Michele were also appreciated by those who loved her.

Yes, she could be caustic at times, but that was Michele and she was very strong in her convictions and beliefs.....and she wasn't afraid to mention them.

We were never successful in swaying Michele away from being a Republican. It's not that we didn't try, but we were faced with a force in Michele that we know could not be changed.

I first met Michele during a shared Comparative Religion class at S.P.H.S.. Michele was a junior and I was a sophomore.

We were good acquaintances during the two years together at S.P.H.S. and I always remembered her from those days.

Michele was a facilitator without comparison. If something needed doing, she did it.

If Michele didn't know much about a task she was taking on, she dove into learning about being the best she could possibly be at dealing with the task.

I don't know if Michele volunteered or was volunteered so much of the time. Folks knew that if they needed some guidance, friendship, or help, going to Michele was a great first step.

Michele was recruited for several things (like Lady Boosters') because of her gifts of knowledge, administration, her helpfulness, and her very high intelligence.

It was not really amazing that the first phone call I answered on Sunday morning came from a classmate of Michele's who did not see eye to eye with Michele, much of the time.

For me, Michele was a buddy, pal, mentor, friend, and confidant. Terri and I thought of her as a great friend and someone who we felt very close to.

There is a whole group of true friends of Michele's who knew of her health issues and relished the time we had with her, which turned out to be too short of time.

A great lady, powerful woman, true friend, and incredibly giving person has entered into our memories, where she will stay forever.


Anonymous said...

I have had the privilege of knowing Michele since P. E. in 7th grade at Dana Jr. High School, through San Pedro High School, and on to L. A. Harbor College.

She attended my wedding to Jim Butner, also a San Pedro High graduate in 1976. She had become close to our daughter Charity and was present at her bridal shower and wedding in 2005, a true blessing to Charity.

For the past 5 years or so, Michele and I would meet once a month for lunch at a restaurant between San Pedro and my now home town of Yucaipa, CA. It was a luncheon and girl talk time we both looked forward too. Our next one was set for September 29, 2008, at Applebee's in Riverside.

We had this special red spangled fabric bag that we would pass back to each other, having a special surprise in it each time we met. Last month she gave me a beautiful pair of black onyx earrings, which was funny, since I had ready to give her a pair of sterling silver earrings for our next luncheon on September 29.

The last time Jim and I saw her was on September 5, 2008, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Pedro, for the 2nd annual L. A. Harbor College induction into the Athletic Hall of Fame banquet. Jim was a member of the 1974-75 Men's Basketball team that won the State Championship, an honor no other L. A. Harbor College basketball team has achieved. He and the team members were honored and Michele was present to share in this special moment for Jim, as she knew him also from San Pedro High School days.

Our daughter Charity and her husband Rob were present and enjoyed seeing and receiving a big hug from Michele that night, a connection Charity truly looked forward too, as Michele was going to be a honorary grandma when Charity has children, Michele was truly excited.

I have been truly blessed to have been called one of Michele's close friends and look forward to seeing her in heaven someday and receive my big hug that I will truly miss.

This is not goodbye Michele, but I will see you someday soon, save a big hug for me.

Love you forever,

Yvonne J. (Anderson) Butner

Valerie Griffin (Smith) W'70 SPHS said...

Mark has said it ALL - wonderfully written!

My P.S.

Michele was a one-woman, San Pedro High School historian. Have a story to write pertaining to SPHS or, for that matter, any individual that attended or taught at SPHS...dismiss calling administration - call Michele! She was superior to the Internet for information and helped me many times over for articles. When my sister, Lucia Kramer (Smith) passed on in '06 - for several months prior - Michele gave me support and encouragement - and talked of her brother - and her mother - and her feelings about their passings and the impact they had on her - it helped me reflect on my relationship - and count my blessings on all that I was able to share - rather than what I'd miss. A half-full glass, that was Michele in my eyes. A tremendous loss for all who knew her - for SPHS - and for the city of San Pedro.

Lisa Kaye said...

Dear Mark,

Thanks for giving us such great insight into the breadth of Michele's contributions. Having moved away from San Pedro right after graduation I didn't have the opportunity to work with her as an adult other than to reap the rewards of her involvement in the Class of '72 reunions.

Michele always brought a kind of maturity to her work even back in high school. I talked to her about AFS, the exchange student club I was involved in, and the Comparative Religion class that was quite controversial at the time and always she had a practical and level-headed approach to problem solving that belied her years.

Even after I moved away, Michele never lost touch and communications with her always seemed like our friendship was just as easy and accessible as when we were seeing each other walking the halls of SPHS each day.

She served as the "411" for many of us helping people to find each other over the years and giving us ways to stay in touch. She truly had a gift of making people feel connected. I will miss her. Please post where donations can be sent in her memory.

Lisa Kaye

Pat Fieldgrove said...

Michele and I attended Harbor College together in the early 70's, and I will always remember her fondly. When I see a chow, I always think of Michele. Although I didn't see her often, she is definitely a part of my memories, and I will miss her. She was a wonderful woman and really influenced many people in her lifetime.

Anonymous said...

I have known Michelle since the 7th grade also at Dana. She was a great person, hands down. I remember her and her smile when we were at LA Harbor College in the early 70's. She will be missed by me and many others. RIP Michelle huggs... Victor Bonilla

Laura Gordon said...

I have known Michele "Miki" all my life. Our mothers went to nursing school together and we grew up as "cousins". I remember the many holiday's that we spent together either at their home or my mother's house. I was very saddened when I got the call that she had passed. Even though we would months without emailing or calling, when we did it was like no time had passed and we would talk and talk until one of our phone lost juice.

Miki was a great person and now she has gone to be with our family. She was a good friend and will be truely missed.

Nathan Samples said...

I was truly shocked to hear of Michele's passing away, my wife and I had just returned froma trip to Holland and Paris, and two of my wife's mates in Britain had also recently passed as well,it seems to be a sign of getting older that this is happening so often now, Michele was responsible for "finding" me and getting me to come to the Class of '72 reunions after so many years, and anyone from our class knows that I'm a bit, "out there" shall we say, but that was the special gift that Michele had, she bridged every type of person and found common ground between people, which the way things are now in America is indeed a special "power". Having been on death's door myself last year, I can say that we ALL need to realize that line from the old Tom Jones tune is true,"tomorrow is promised to no one", so look deep int the eyes of your loved ones, tell them you love them, never part with hard words on your lips, life is a gift, use it very wisdom and care, I don't know what else to say right now, it's such a shock that she's gone, all we can do is to make our own lives meaningful. Take care, old friend, we'll all meet on the other side. Nathan Samples.