Beverly Burke has double joys of TV career and family life

SINGLE, WORKING MOM

September 20, 1992|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

Beverly Burke was beat.

It had been a whirlwind weekend working in front of the camera for the annual Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy. She had gotten very little sleep, yet had to arise early to drop her 9-year-old daughter off at school. Then there was an assignment to go on, people to interview and research to do -- all before anchoring the 6 o'clock news on WMAR-TV that evening.

Just another ordinary day for this real-life, single, working mom/television journalist. And -- with no apologies to Vice President Dan Quayle -- Ms. Burke wouldn't have it any other way, thank you very much.

"I like the way things are now," she says, munching on shrimp cocktail at lunch recently.

This is the life that Beverly Burke, 41, chose. She has worked in some area of broadcasting since graduating from a community college in New York. And she's had her adopted daughter, Casey, since she was 3 weeks old.

The key to making it all work, Ms. Burke says, is to relax!

"There are dishes in my sink right now, and there are towels that need to be folded!" she says. In other words, the woman doesn't sweat the small stuff.

She even likes doing her own housework. Down on her hands and knees scrubbing the kitchen floor -- the way her mother taught her -- probably isn't the image TV viewers have when they think of the attractive woman whose friendly smile beams into their homes five nights a week.

"I like my house," she says. "And I want my daughter to see me doing housework."

Ms. Burke, who came to town in 1983, seems determined to remain true to her roots -- and to follow her heart.

When she decided to adopt her daughter, her parents and friends were concerned that she was taking on too much and that being a single mother might be detrimental to her career.

Ms. Burke did realize that parenting is not an easy job for anyone -- particularly for single parents. But she also realized that a single woman adopting a child "is less of a stigma" than having one out of wedlock.

Love at first sight

The bottom line, she says, was that her heart told her the adoption was the right thing to do.

"It wasn't that I was making plans for marriage or a family," she says, recalling those days. "I was working in North Carolina and enjoying my life, covering stories, breaking stories. But I first saw my daughter when she was 3 weeks old, and it was love at first sight."

Ms. Burke declines to go into details of how Casey came into her life or the adoption process. "It was a complicated situation, but I was able to get custody and able to adopt her," is all she will say.

Now, she and Casey make their home in a Baltimore County town house. Ms. Burke makes it a point to take Casey along on her many speaking engagements, but relatives do live nearby and help out when she needs it.

And she does have a social life. But is there one particular special person in her life? "Yes!" Ms. Burke answers. "Casey."

It is a very comfortable life here in Baltimore where Ms. Burke hopes to remain. In fact, she wants to grow old here and join the ranks of the much loved Baltimore broadcasting legends who manage to remain on the air for a long, long time.

"I really love Baltimore," says Ms. Burke. "Why not stay somewhere and become 'the institution.'?"

Staying in one place is opposite of the childhood that Ms. Burke had.

Always on the go

The oldest of five children, she was born in Harlem, N.Y. It was a military family -- her father was a master meat-cutter in the Air Force -- that moved around the country a lot.

She didn't mind being uprooted so much while growing up and describes her childhood as "a total adventure." Moving frequently as a child taught her how to make friends easily. But most of all, she learned not to be afraid of change.

"She's a wonderful daughter, a very special, spiritual person," says her mother, Gertrude Burke, who lives in Rome, N.Y.

Mrs. Burke says her eldest child always had a creative flair -- she loved to paint. Still, her mother was surprised when her daughter ended up choosing such a public career.

"I remember when she was little, I took her to a dentist who said she had an overbite that needed to be fixed. But being the wife of a G.I. with five kids, we really couldn't do it. I remember telling her, 'Darling, you're not going to be a movie star!'

"Who knew that she would end up in front of a camera! I wish I had done [the dental work]," Mrs. Burke jokes now. "But she turned out beautifully, anyway. She was always very friendly, very happy-go-lucky as a girl," Mrs. Burke says.

Ms. Burke even managed to give off cheerful vibes when she was obviously exhausted after working all weekend.

"That's just her personality -- bubbly," says her longtime friend April Haines, a concierge for the Marriott Hotel. "But she has her serious side. She's reflective, a deep thinker and very caring. She is also a woman of very strong faith," Ms. Haines says.

"She is also real. A lot of times people don't realize that when they invade her space," her friend says.

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