Saturday, August 21, 2021
10:00 AM EDT
Mt. Olivet Cemetery
Life Story / Obituary
Patricia Elizabeth Burke, 5/5/1930 - 10/25/2019
Pat was born in Detroit in 1930, the youngest of five children. Her childhood was not an easy one, as the family was very poor and she lost both parents before she finished high school. The children often had no Christmas presents apart from what the Goodfellows charitable organization could provide. Pat was able to attend a Catholic high school only because her godmother paid the tuition.
After briefly joining a convent in Detroit, she decided to study nursing at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, where she found her calling and made lifelong friendships. She became a registered nurse and worked in the field for almost 60 years, in hospitals, volunteer clinics, the Kalamazoo Visiting Nurses Association, and even co-teaching physician assistant courses. She went back to school in the 1970s to earn an associate degree in social work at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She was the only one of her siblings to attend college.
She also volunteered with numerous organizations, including the Red Cross and Lending Hands of Michigan, and received a Kalamazoo Volunteer of the Year award. She was a regular blood donor for years until a cancer diagnosis prevented her from continuing.
Pat met her husband Howard through his sister Virginia, a fellow nursing student and close friend. One day she invited Pat over to meet Sano Ferrara, another Detroiter, for a blind date—but in the end Sano took more of an interest in Virginia, while her brother Howard took to Pat. They got married at St. Monica's church in Kalamazoo in 1958, and moved into a house on Parker Avenue, where they would live for 55 years until Howard's death in 2013. She was very proud of their four children, and of the fact that she lived long enough to see her six grandchildren grow up. She was also considered a surrogate grandma by many.
Movies were a lifelong passion of hers, and she often reminisced about going to the theater for a full afternoon's entertainment with the pennies she got from turning in empty bottles for the deposit. Her tastes were eclectic, running from comedies to science fiction to classic film, but she particularly loved mysteries, which she devoured in book, movie, and TV form. She also loved live entertainment, especially going to plays and musicals at the Barn Theater and local high schools. She enjoyed many kinds of music, from opera to Elvis and Patsy Cline.
Her other major interest was sports, especially baseball—she was a diehard Detroit Tigers fan all her life, and attending a World Series game in 1968 was a treasured memory. She also enjoyed watching football (the Detroit Lions and Notre Dame) and golf. She herself was a bowler for many years, and liked to play softball at family gatherings or go fishing on a quiet lake. One of her favorite ways to spend an evening with friends or family was playing poker, bingo, trivia, or board games.
Pat loved to travel and see new places—but only if she could drive there. Distance was not an object, and she was perfectly willing to drive three days to visit friends in Calgary, Canada, or to undertake a month-long family trip to California in a station wagon. Later on there were numerous trips to visit her children in Maryland, Indiana, and Minnesota. One of the things she missed most late in her life was being able to hop in the car for a road trip.
Throughout her life, Pat loved to laugh and always tried to find humor even in difficult moments. She was always ready to help others in any way she could, giving freely of her time, money, and understanding. We will always remember her loving nature and generous spirit, and her unfailing encouragement throughout our lives.