My father, Richard Burke, died in 1996 of complications from prostate cancer.
Here are few things not everyone knew about him:
He played on the defensive line of the Marquette University’s Golden Avalanche football team during the late 1940s. To earn a little money on the side, he also briefly (and secretly, since it was forbidden by college sports rules) fought as a professional wrestler under the name “Tiger Dick.”
When he was cut from the team, he was drafted into the Marines, where he served as a Marine sharpshooter and MP. He was also a semi-professional gambler at the time, and he and some fellow Marines opened a clandestine casino on base — but only for about a month because “that’s how long the bribes lasted.”
(I’m not a great card player, but he taught me some useful strategies that I don’t share with potential rivals, so don’t ask.)
He never had occasion to face combat, but as an MP he once stopped an attempted rape. He warned the perpetrator, “Halt or I’ll shoot!” and, since the circumstances required it, he would have shot to kill. He recalled that incident with pride at his resolve to do what he had to do without hesitation. The perpetrator wisely halted.
He went on to work in supervisory positions in heavy manufacturing. He eventually held three patents. He also raised four children, adored his wife, enjoyed pro and college football, could fix anything as a handyman, and was an excellent sport fisherman.
Later, he capitalized on his long experience in manufacturing to do some industrial espionage. He said the spy work wasn’t especially sneaky. He would simply observe what a company was doing during a public factory tour, for example, and since he understood manufacturing processes so well, he could deduce their secrets.
When he retired, he volunteered to lead tours at historic Fort Concho in San Angelo, Texas, headquarters to Pecos Bill and the Buffalo Soldiers.