EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 31, 2013

Shadow was his 'only friend'

Cancer takes life of dog owner inspired to start fund for ailing pets


Sullivan said she was saddened by the words she read of the Marine, who was ready to put his job on the line six years ago for the dog he loved.

“I hope we restored some of his faith in mankind,” she said.

Sullivan was the one Burke looked to last August when his health was failing to the point where he could no longer take care of Shadow. She made arrangements to have Shadow “stay temporarily” at her sister’s house until he was able to come home.

“I didn’t want Robert to give up hope,” Sullivan said.

“He really loved his dog. As long as he could see Shadow, he was happy in life,” she said.

George Bourque, a fellow veteran who befriended Burke, thinks he died peacefully and found comfort in knowing that his dog was being taken care and that many other pets were getting help from the Shadow Fund.

“From the time I spent with him in the Lawrence area and in the Coolidge house, he seemed to bring out the very best in people,” Bourque said.

Burke was born in Cambridge July 12, 1950. His father was in sales and the son of a Boston police officer. His mother was the daughter of a female concert pianist. They moved to California for a better life, according to Bourque.

At age 17, Burke joined the Marines and served from 1968 to 1972. He was a radio operator in Vietnam. When he returned home, he became an instructor at radio operators school in California.

Later, he worked at a Papa Ginos. His work eventually brought him to Methuen, where he was an assistant manager of Papa Ginos in Methuen. He lived in Lawrence for about 15 years.

It was Burke’s wish to be cremated, like the three German shepherds he owned over a period of three decades before Shadow became the new love of his life.

Bourque said Burke’s ashes will be buried at the veterans cemetery in Winchendon with a military funeral.

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