Robert Michael Burke, age 98, passed away in his home surrounded by family on March 29, 2021. He was a lifelong resident of Pensacola, FL. He was known by many as Coach Burke and “The Godfather of Catholic High.”
Robert was born November 12, 1922. He was the son of William F. And Lena P. Burke. Robert was the youngest of eight siblings whom all preceded him in death: William Burke (Hazel), Lucille Larkin, John Burke, Eugene Burke (Fabrice), Margaret Tindall (Howard Sr.), Lena Mae Gunter (Clyde), and Thomas Burke (Betty). He is also preceded in death by his nephews Howard Tindall, Jr., Richard Tindall, John Beamer (Ellen), Quinn Burke, one niece Diana MacMillan (Donald), and his great nephew Justin Tindall (Tracy).
He is survived by nieces Billie Jean Sara (Vincent), Tanya Jones (PJ), Theresa O’Toole (Tim), and Charlotte Palmer (Don). Great nephews Jason Tindall (Jenifer) and Joe Tindall (Debbie) as well as Great, Great Nephews/Niece Shaun Tindall (Jalyn), Ashton Escalante (Jason), Shane Tindall, Jackson Tindall, and Jarrett Tindall. He is also survived by Great, Great, Great Nieces/Nephew Kinsley Tindall, Emric Escalante, and Adalyn Tindall as well as numerous other relatives and friends.
Robert was a founding member of Little Flower Catholic Church and was also the first Boy Scouts Scoutmaster of Little Flower Troop 103. He also was a founding member of the “walking rosary” memorial rose garden at Little Flower Catholic Church. Coach Burke spent countless hours alongside Jean Rosenberg and Ann Smith tending to the roses.
Robert was a graduate of St. Michael High School in 1941. In the fall of that same year, he began his teaching and coaching career when the newly formed Pensacola Catholic High School opened its doors. He taught and coached at Catholic High for over 75 years.
From 1941 to the early 1980s, he served the community working on a milk truck from the early morning to the afternoon. He would then go to work at Catholic High, teaching and coaching basketball.
His passion and love for his players and the game inspired countless players over the years. This was best illustrated by his motto and number one rule — “Do your best and leave the rest to God.”
In the early 1980s, he began full time teaching, inspiring generations of Catholic High students with his commitment to what would become the Core Values of Catholic High (Selfless Love, Commitment to Excellence, Personal Integrity, and Commitment to Service). Coach Burke was the finest example of living these core values to the fullest and he made an unforgettable impression for all who knew him.
His greatest commitment was his selflessness to his family, who simply knew him as Bob or Uncle Robert. Although he never married or had children of his own, he was the true definition of the family patriarch. At the early age of 18, he became the head of the household and maintained the family home for his widowed mother and widowed sister.
Whether it was his quick wit, subtle humor, charisma and charm, he always made those around him feel better. His family, loved ones, and the Catholic High community will surely miss his shining example of Love of God, family, country and neighbor that he would espouse with his trademark gravelly voice.
A grateful alumnus of Catholic High established the Robert Burke Charisma Fund many years ago which ensures that deserving students are able to attend Coach Burke’s alma mater. Catholic High has also dedicated the greenhouse in his name as well as placing a statue of St. Therese, the patron saint of Little Flower parish at the school. The statue has an engraved plaque which says, “In honor of Coach Robert Burke class of 1941, Coach, Teacher, and Ultimate Crusader."
The family will be accepting visitors Wednesday, April 7th from 5-7 PM at Waters and Hibbert Funeral Home. The Rosary will be prayed at 6:30 PM. Burial Mass will be held on Thursday, April 8th 11 AM at Little Flower Catholic Church, 6495 Lillian Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32506 with Father Matt Worthen serving as the main celebrant. There will also be a Live Stream of the service at https://www.hdezwebcast.com/show/robert-michael-burke
Pallbearers are Tim Meier, Jim Edler, David Smith, Eric Nelson, Nick Lupton, and Nick Mead. Honorary Pallbearers are John Campbell, John Peck, Greg Matthews, Jerry Hoffman and all of his other former players and students.
The family would like to offer our sincere thanks and gratitude to Dr. Grace Torres-Hodges, Dr. Steven Lenga, Dr. Henry Langhorne III and all of the other amazing medical providers who provided such exceptional care to Coach Burke.
Memorial Contributions to honor Coach Burke’s life can be made to the Robert Burke Charisma Scholarship Fund at Pensacola Catholic High School or Pensacola Little Flower Catholic Church Rose Garden.
WATERS & HIBBERT FUNERAL HOME is in charge of arrangements.