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William Burke, MD

William Michael "UB" Burke, MD

Friday, April 8th, 1938 - Sunday, February 21st, 2021
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William Michael Burke, 82, formerly of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, passed away on February 21, 2021 at The Mooring at the Downs in Scarborough, Maine due to Alzheimer's disease.

William was born on April 8, 1938, to John and Ellen (Crowley) Burke. William graduated from Saint Sebastian’s High School, Holy Cross College, and the University of Vermont School of Medicine. He completed an Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Kentucky Medical Center, and continued his training to specialize in Addiction Medicine. For many years he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and then went on to work at United Health Care in Westborough. William also distinguished himself in the United States Army, serving as doctor in Vietnam. For his service he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Throughout his life William was a devout Catholic. He attended mass daily at Saint Theresa's Church in West Roxbury. William’s way of life was truly Christian. He embraced the teachings of his alma maters throughout his life and worked to embody the Ignatian vision “for the greater glory of God” in all things. William was also a connoisseur and collector of fine wines. He enjoyed travel and traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He was a dedicated Democrat and an avid Red Sox fan and rejoiced when the Red Sox won the pennant and World Series in 2004.

William will be especially remembered for his sense of humor. He had a sharp wit, a twinkle in his eye, and enjoyed making his family laugh at his many humorous remarks, keeping them alert at all times, ready for his next round of jokes. William had a profound effect on the lives of those he loved and who loved him. He was generous, kind, and compassionate. To all who knew him, William was an unforgettable person whose remembrance always brings a smile.

William is predeceased by his parents, John and Ellen, his brothers-in-law, William O’Connor and Charles Richardson and his nephew, Thomas Garza. William is survived by his sisters, Ellen Burke of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Austine O'Connor of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Celine Richardson of Dover, New Hampshire; his nieces Siobhan O'Connor of Boston, Massachusetts; Justine Garza of Hebron, Indiana; Gwyneth Maguire and her husband, Richard of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; and nephew, Christopher O'Connor of Smithville, Tennessee. UB was a loving and much beloved granduncle to Zachary, Kelsey, Connor, William, Devin, and Sheridan.

A special thanks to the care partners, staff and housemates of The Mooring at the Downs and The Mooring at Foreside.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Saturday, April 17, 2021 at 8:30am in Saint Theresa of Avila Parish in West Roxbury., followed by interment in St. Joseph's Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, please remember William with a contribution to Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (
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Service Details

  • Service

    Saturday, April 17th, 2021 | 8:30am
    Saturday, April 17th, 2021 8:30am
    Saint Theresa of Avila
    2078 Centre St.
    WEST ROXBURY, MA 02132
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
  • Interment

    St. Joseph's Cemetery
    990 LaGrange St.
    WEST ROXBURY, MA 02132
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email


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3 trees have been planted in memory of William Michael "UB" Burke, MD

John P Hanson Jr MD

Posted at 05:15pm
Bill a special friend from Holy Cross .I saw him at the Holy Cross Christmas lunch 5 years. Messages never returned. i am sad at his death.

3 trees were planted in the memory of William Burke, MD

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Ellen M Burke

Posted at 11:43am

William Eulogy
Although William and I began our journey in the last years of The Great Depression and the dark and troubling days of the Second World War, we shared many happy childhood experiences. We walked to the Joyce Kilmer School together, usually a pleasant stroll until the afternoon I almost buried him alive in a snowbank. When I arrived home alone, our mother, understandably alarmed, fortunately retraced my steps and saved him. We frequently got into trouble together. One day we had the bright idea that we could raise pocket money by selling World War II Savings Stamps. Our neighbors very quickly thwarted that scheme. We finally earned legitimate pocket money working at the soda fountain in Burke's pharmacy, serving ice cream cones, ice cream sodas, hot fudge sundaes, and Coca-Cola.
As children, William and I loved movies. Every Saturday and sometimes Sunday as well, we took the streetcar to the Bellevue Theater, sometimes sitting through the movies twice. We loved Robin Hood, pirate films, and serials with Roy Rogers and Trigger. The Thief of Bagdad was one of our favorite films. And this love of film we shared throughout our lives. Before William left for Maine, we shared one last film together, Downtown Abbey, which he loved. William also enjoyed theatre, often managing to get free tickets to wonderful plays like The History Boys. Observing William's strict standards of frugality, we always traveled to the theater by bus and train.
William and I grew up ardent Red Sox fans. Often we would sit in the right field section of Fenway Park, near the bullpen, our baseball mitts ready, hoping to catch one of Ted Williams' homerun balls. Afterwards we would wait outside the gates for players to emerge, gathering as many autographs as we could. We managed to get Casey Stengel's autograph, but Ted Williams always ignored us. As adults, we watched Celtics, Patriots and Red Sox games together, in good. times and bad. We were finally rewarded when the Red Sox won the pennant and World Series in 2004. The triumphs of 2007, 2013, and 2018 were bonuses.
William never considered himself a scholar At Saint Sebastian’s his nemesis was Latin. One day he stayed home to read War and Peace to prepare for a test the next day. While he was speed reading through War and Peace, his. teacher was conducting a review of the novel. The next day William's classmates had a distinct advantage over him. At Saint Sebastian’s, William was a member of the Honor Society, the beginning of a distinguished academic career. He graduated from the. College of the Holy Cross, the University of Vermont, and continued his graduate medical training at the University of Kentucky Medical Center and the Penn-VA Central for Studies on Addiction Substance Abuse. He was a highly respected teacher at the University of Massachusetts Medical school and later served as a Medical Director at United HealthCare. He also published many papers in medical journals.
Since his days in Kentucky, William and I always watched the Kentucky Derby together, toasting the winner with the mint juleps that William always mixed for the occasion. He prepared the syrup, adding the mint that he cultivated in his garden in the front yard and the crushed ice. He then poured the bourbon. William was an expert on bourbon. He was also a connoisseur of French wine, especially the wines of Bordeaux. He was introduced to French wine during his visit to Austine and her family in Munich. When he returned home, he began a wine cellar of sorts, with many Bordeaux wines of outstanding vintage years, most notably 1982, an exceptionally fine year. William also enjoyed following the Stock Market. He was a shrewd and careful investor.
Throughout his life William was deeply spiritual and courageous. He was a lifelong daily communicant. During the Vietnam War, he was a Captain in the Medical Corps of the United States Army Reserve and served in the 450th Medical Detachment at a hospital in Saigon. I have a lovely photo of him talking to a child crying outside the hospital where he was stationed. For his distinguished service, he was awarded a Bronze Star Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, and a National Defense Vietnam Service Medal.
Even during the years he was away, William and I remained close. And finally, as in childhood, we lived together in our family home. It was very difficult when he had to leave to spend his last days at the Mooring at Foreside and the Mooring at the Downs in Maine. William didn't want to leave, but he knew he needed more care than I could give him. Throughout his ordeal, he was patient and uncomplaining. In his early days at the Mooring, he did tell the cook that he was planning to escape, most likely by plane. Whether he was offering a commentary on her cooking or a genuine desire to return home is not clear, but he did finally accept this change. He responded very well to his housemates and caretakers, and they came to cherish him. They always remarked on his lovely smile and the twinkle in his blue eyes. William never lost his sense of humor. Shortly after his arrival at the Mooring, Austine, Celine and I shared a lovely evening with him during the Christmas season. The Mooring had a pajama party, and as a memory of that evening, we have a photo of the four of us, arm in arm, dressed in matching pajamas. In the photo he is smiling, and that is the William I will always remember.
The end of William's journey was peaceful. He was well-cared for. Even though he was not conscious in his final days, we were there to hold him and talk to him. We are deeply saddened by his loss, but we have many memories of the joy he brought to our lives. It is the joy that remains.
William was a dear brother and a dear friend. In her Autobiography, Helen Keller writes of the moment when her beloved teacher, Annie Sullivan, helped her to understand the meaning of the word love. Helen describes the day as one during which the sun had been under a cloud. There had been brief showers. Then suddenly, in the late afternoon, “the sun broke forth in all its southern splendor.”
Annie said to Helen: "Love is something like the clouds that were in the sky before the sun came out. You cannot touch the clouds, you know; but you feel the rain and know how glad the flowers and the thirsty earth are to have it after a hot day. You cannot touch love either, but you feel the sweetness that it pours into everything. Without love you would not be happy or want to play."
At that moment Helen understood. She writes, “I felt that there were invisible lines stretched between my spirit and the spirits of others.”
William touched the hearts of all those who knew and loved him. We all feel his loss, but we can find comfort in the “invisible lines” that stretch between his spirit and ours.


Mike Sullivan

Posted at 10:49am
My sincere condolences tot the Burke family. I worked with Bill back in the early ‘90’s. What a good guy was he...funny, smart, an impish look but with an air of humility about him. God bless you Bill and Rest In Peace.. -Mike Sullivan

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