Alan B. Burke

SKOWHEGAN – On April 10, 1929, Alan B. Burke, was born on the Burke family farm in Robbinston, Maine overlooking the Passamoquoddy Bay. His life on earth ended at home on Dec. 9, 2021. He has gone to be with his Lord. Growing up on the farm, he learned to care for the animals, spent time with his grandfather, Fred Burke, in the blacksmith shop where his first job was to turn the fan crank on the forge and pass nails to the blacksmith when shoeing horses. He also spent time with his uncles, Percy and Leroy, in the carpenter shop playing with tools and learning how to use them.

Alan walked to the Robbinston Ridge one-room school for grades one to six. Before he went to school, he could read, knew the states and capitals, had a globe and maps. He skipped grade seven, had the same teacher in grade eight at the Robbinston Village two-room school. He graduated from Calais Academy in 1946. He said, “I had my diploma in one hand and draft papers in the other”. He spoke with a recruiter in Calais. After looking at his high school records, he was promised Army Air Corps schools, so he enlisted in the Army Air Corps for four years. As Alan had summer jobs scheduled, working in the sardine packing factory, raking blueberries, and picking potatoes in Aroostook County, he was deferred until November. He spent the next 14 weeks in basic training at Lackland Air Base in San Antonio, Texas. For nearly two years, he completed schools (now the United States Air Force) in Radio Mechanics and Directional Finding. He was assigned to 1st Radio Squadron Mobile. From California, he had a 1-day trip across the Pacific by the General Sutton USNS to Yokohama, Japan where he was stationed at Johnson Air Force Base which was an old Japanese base used for suicide Kamikaze training.

While there, the Korean Conflict began. Alan volunteered to join a detachment to go to Korea. He was in North Korea about 15 miles from the Yalu River on the China border when they invaded. He and several others flew out on a C47 loaded with drums of jet fuel for Pyongyang, then to South Korea. He was there until back to California to receive an honorable discharge on July 8, 1951. He was a proud veteran to have been able to serve his country.

Upon returning home, Alan bought land and cut logs to build a home on Robbinston Ridge with the same beautiful view of the Passamoquoddy Bay and St Andrews New Brunswick, Canada. This place was home until 1962. While living there, he belonged to the Lion’s Club, Red Men, and Grange. He served on the School Committee and Board of Selectmen.

In 1952, he married the love of his life, Harriet Stanhope whom he had known all his life. They had three children, Dennis and Kevin born in Calais and Vernon in Waterville. Alan had several small jobs before working at Todd’s Hardware in Calais. When Ted Williams (yes, the famous Red Sox baseball player) came to Maine to visit his pal, Bud Leavitt, he shopped at Todd’s. He always requested Al to wait on him Alan remembers selling him a rifle and a fly-fishing rod.

In 1955, New England Tel & Tel was hiring. Alan had the skills they were looking for. His first job was installing dial telephone offices across Maine and Massachusetts. In 1962, he moved to central office technical maintenance in the Skowhegan telephone office. He studied, passed all day oral exams and became a top-rated consulting technician responsible for all toll service in Somerset County. Alan substituted for supervisors during vacation times. He was offered supervisor positions many times but refused as he didn’t want to take personal time from his family. One co-worker in another office said that he would have a problem that he couldn’t solve, but he knew who to call, “Al always had the answer”. Alan retired in 1989.

Alan grew up in a musical family. He earned money picking beans to buy himself a guitar and a bicycle. He learned to play the guitar and sang at public events. He also played saxophone in Stanhope’s orchestra for dances. After learning to square dance, he studied, taught lessons, and called dances for the Arnold Trail Squares and several other clubs for many years. Alan and Harriet also taught ballroom dancing. He was a member of the Northeast Square Dance Callers, and Teachers Association. He continued with the Lions Club, working on many projects like the Skowhegan Fair as long as he was able, American Legion member for 54 years, Telephone Pioneers, and the Skowhegan Federated Church where he served on many church committees and as co-chair for the Sunday School Addition and renovation of Tewksbury Hall.

When Alan’s boys became involved in Boy Scouts, so did he. Alan was Cub Scout master for troop 485, 10 years. On a fall camporee in Jackman, he always said “frying bacon for breakfast in a blizzard was a lot of fun”. He was always proud of his boy’s accomplishments, two were first class scouts and Vernon is an Eagle Scout.

Alan loved family gatherings, Lake Wesserunsett Camp, boating, water-skiing, deep sea fishing off Eastport, gardening, wood working, music and travel. He and Harriet visited Ireland (birth place of his great grandfather, Michael Burke), Hawaii, Alaska, Washington DC, Florida, many National Parks and historic sites in the United States and Canada.

Alan’s natural sense of humor and caring personality made him a beloved presence in many lives. He was an exceptional person who many were honored to have known. He was loved, admired and respected by all, and will be dearly missed and never forgotten.

He will be fondly remembered by his wife of nearly 70 years, Harriet; children, Reverend Dr. Denise Sudbeck, Aimee of Anchorage, Alaska, Vernon Burke of Skowhegan; grandchildren, Julie, Danielle, Nathan and Ellis; seven great grandchildren; niece, Susan; nephews, Alan, Rick, Mike and David; Richard and Jessie Stanhope, Jean Stanhope, Anne Rider; and his cousins in Ohio; friends like family, Kenneth and Jane Brooks and those who called him Grampie. He was predeceased by his son, Kevin and mother Marion.

Alan and Harriet were blessed to have assistance from various care providers during his illness and final days. A special thank you to ALL for their support, allowing him to remain in his own home.

A graveside service with military honors will be held Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 11:00 am at the Robbinston Ridge Cemetery.

Arrangements under the direction and care of Dan & Scott’s Cremation & Funeral Service, 445 Waterville Road, Skowhegan ME 04976.

Please consider making donations in his memory to House in the Woods, 217 Skunk Hill Road, Lee, ME 04455, email:

Alan B. Burke

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