116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The Gazette publishes obituaries on a daily basis. Use the search field above to search for obituaries by name or keyword. Readers can submit an obituary or submit a milestone to The Gazette. The obituary must be submitted before 1 p.m. for publication online and in the newspaper the next day, with the exception of obituaries for Sunday publication, which must be submitted by 1 p.m. on Fridays.
DONALD WILLIAM BURKE
"Don Quixote ponders the windmills. For when he attacks them, it often happens that one of their far-reaching canvas arms pitches him down into the mud! Or up among the stars!"
Cyrano de Bergerac
Donald William Burke completed his mission in this life on Sunday, May 15, 2022. He was 87 years old.
"Big Don W. Burke" was his self-applied moniker because he knew he had a big HEART. The only boy among four children born Aug. 6, 1934, Don recalled as a youngster that his father regularly beat the tar out of him in an attempt to "toughen me up to be a bad son of a bitch!" This, combined with his father's claim to be a "shirt-tail relative of Jesse & Frank James," convinced Don that he was destined to be an outlaw. However, before Don would completely succumb to the dark side as an adult, he realized that "the right way is the only way." Entirely on his own accord with faith in God, and aided by compassion from the Cedar Rapids Police Deptartment, he stopped drinking and severely altered his social choices and friendships. He committed the rest of his life to being a good and law-abiding citizen, and lived by the watchwords of the Cedar Rapids Police: Courage, Integrity and Character.
He created a personal mission in true Don Quixote fashion to walk the streets, sidewalks and alleyways of downtown Cedar Rapids after business hours to be a vigilant lookout for illegal and dangerous activity. He would regularly check the doors of downtown businesses and buildings to make sure they were locked and secured. Don was afraid of no one, NO ONE, and when he came upon an incident or an unlocked door, he immediately called police and stayed on the scene until police and the building or business owner arrived.
Don befriended, respected and loved members of the police force, who returned their respect for him and his mission by allowing him a margin of responsibility as a volunteer crime stopper, even approving his purchase of a regulation police jacket. When Don encountered CRPD rookies or veterans on their beats during late night & early morning tours, he happily entertained them by singing his unique and resonant renditions of "Ring of Fire," "Old Man River" and "Ghost Riders in the Sky," often accompanying himself by clapping his hands over his mouth mimicking a musical horn or mouth-harp. He had done this mimicking since he was a boy imitating farm animals and musical instruments, referring to himself as "an imitator expert" and "The Lone Horn Kid." He performed at county fairs, with the Des Moines and Marshalltown community theaters, and is said to have appeared on the local Dr. Max TV show in Cedar Rapids mooing, clucking and telling jokes to the cheers of studio audiences full of children. Don always had a joke. He loved making people young and old smile and laugh. When an orphanage burned down he dressed as Santa Claus and spent all of his money on little toys for the children.
He was staunchly loyal. He was caring and eternally grateful for true friendship. e was Hell bent on succeeding in his mission. When asked, "Are you ok?", he always answered, "Got to be! ot to stay above the graveyard." He was an optimist and determined to survive in an often contrary, difficult and mean world.
Don was preceded in death by his parents, Grace E. Sherrod Burke Burket and Patrick W. Burke; and his sisters, Doris Ann Searls, Rita Marilyn Schipper and Jane A. Johnson.
Don is survived by brother-in-law, Roger Searls; and many nieces and nephews of first and second generations, with special affection for Jolene, and a large circle of friends. He is laid to rest in his hometown of "Boone, Ioway."
Special gratitude to the Cedar Rapids Police Dept, the Linn County Sheriff's Dept, Dr. Sue Cahalan, Dr. Rick Larson, and devoted friends, Kathryn O'Hair and Steve Ginsberg, the competent & compassionate people at Geneva Tower in Cedar Rapids, Therapy Solutions, Mercy Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Mercy Home Healthcare, the staff of Windmill Manor in Coralville, the staff of Eastern Star Masonic Home in Boone, and the staff of Suncrest Home Health and Hospice in Boone.
Burial arrangements by Schroeder-Stark-Welin Funeral Home in Boone with graveside service at Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Though he never sang this song, he was imbued with the wonder and perseverance of its main character, Don Quixote. As you read these lyrics by Joe Darion called "The Impossible Dream" from "Man of La Mancha," a stage musical based on the 1605 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, consider that this man indeed lived and still lives among us in our time, yet his profound nature escapes most of us as it usually does when we pass a stranger on the street:
"To dream the impossible dream;
To fight the unbeatable foe;
To bear with unbearable sorrow;
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong;
To love pure and chaste from afar;
To try when your arms are too weary;
To reach the unreachable star.
This is my quest;
To follow that star;
No matter how hopeless;
No matter how far.
To fight for the right;
Without question or pause;
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause.
And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest;
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this;
That one man, scorned and covered with scars;
Still strove with his last ounce of courage;
To reach the unreachable star."