LAWRENCE — Although David Burke was not physically in the function room at the Claddagh Pub yesterday, "we know he's here with us in spirit," said his longtime friend and fellow Irishman William Sullivan.
Burke posthumously received the Judge John E. Fenton Sr. Citizenship Award, along with loc al and congressional citations, during the 41st St. Patrick's Day luncheon.
Burke died last May 27 at the age of 69.
He served in various roles on the national, state and county levels of the Ancient Order of Hibernians for more than 40 years, and for years organized the Lawrence luncheon and served as its master of ceremonies.
Hibernians are dedicated to unity, friendship and true Christian charity.
Mayor William Lantigua read a proclamation naming March 17, St. Patrick's Day, forever David Burke Day in Lawrence. The crowd burst into applause.
"I am fortunate and proud to call him a dear friend. He is truly a great man who left us too soon," said Sullivan, a local Hibernian who ably filled Burke's shoes yesterday as emcee.
Among the dozens of dignitaries and politicians who attended yesterday's luncheon were Rose Allen, Irish Woman of the Year, and Irish Man of the Year, Keith Murphy. The luncheons are about "good food, good company, excellent entertainment and some fun and laughter," Sullivan said.
A moment of silence also was observed for the armed forces, including Marine Eric Currier of Londonderry, N.H., who was killed on Feb. 17. His father and grandfather, Russell Currier Jr. and Russell Currier Sr., attended the luncheon.
Burke's widow, Patricia, accepted the awards on her late husband's behalf. She reminded the crowd of a question David regularly asked.
"What have you done for Ireland today?" she said, remarking on his affection for Ireland.
Burke was a 35-year worker for the Lawrence Housing Authority and a volunteer in former Mayor Michael Sullivan's office. While he worked at City Hall, Burke started the Lawrencians Giving Thanks annual Thanksgiving food drive.