Paul E. Burke Jr., 66, lawyer specializing in estate, trusts and tax

November 27, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Paul E. Burke Jr., a Baltimore estates, trusts and tax lawyer and an avid outdoorsman, died Sunday at home of complications from surgery. He was 66.

A resident of Catonsville, Mr. Burke was raised in East Baltimore and graduated from Calvert Hall College in 1951 and Loyola College in 1955. As a senior at Loyola, he was captain of the college wrestling team and won the Mason-Dixon Conference 137-pound class championship.

In 1959, Mr. Burke graduated from the University of Maryland Law School, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif, a national scholastic honor society.

While attending law school at night, Mr. Burke was bailiff for the late Judge Emory H. Niles, chief judge of the Supreme Bench of Baltimore. After graduation, he worked for the firm of Smith, Somerville and Case until 1964, when he joined Gibbs McKenney and George Thomsen in a firm that at his death was known as Thomsen and Burke.

Mr. Burke was a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

"Paul Burke was one of the most respected trust and estates lawyers in Maryland," said Susan Whiteford, an assistant Maryland attorney general who is counsel to Registers of Wills and Orphans Court judges. "Paul gave freely of his time in assisting other lawyers, and was a frequent lecturer on advanced estate planning issues. On a scale of 1 to 10, he was a 10."

Henry Stansbury, a longtime friend, said, "Paul Burke was the trustee on literally hundreds of family trusts. There is no higher respect that we can show another person than to entrust him with our family's well-being after we're gone."

For most of his life, Mr. Burke was widely known by his nickname, Spank.

"When he was 5 years old, he saw an `Our Gang' comedy movie," said his wife of 42 years, the former Edith Scherer. "He told his father, `From now on, everyone should call me `Spank,' " after one of the movie's characters, she said.

Mr. Burke was a collector of handmade hunting knives. He was legal counsel to, and a director of, the American Bladesmith Society, an association dedicated to preserving the art of hand-forged blades.

He shared his passion for hiking, canoeing, fishing and hunting with his family. His wife was his frequent companion on hunting trips for deer, elk and other game.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Wednesday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Burke is survived by two sons, Paul A. Burke of Sykesville and Mark D. Burke of Rockville; two daughters, Cheryl Burke-Schwarz of Woodstock and Karen Burke-Case of Sykesville; two brothers, James Burke of Kingsville and Donald Burke of Lutherville; two sisters, Margie Burke of Parkville and Carol Burke of Greenbelt; and eight grandchildren.

Memorial donations can be made to the St. Augustine Building Fund, 5976 Old Washington Road, Elkridge 21075; or to the Catonsville Emergency Food Ministry, c/o Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church, 5602 Johnnycake Road, Baltimore 21207.

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