Thomas M. Burke Jr

1946-1948

Tommy Burke was buried from the Church of the Immaculate Conception Friday and interred in the family plot at St Mary’s Cemetery. Only two years and two months, the child of Morgan and Judy Burke succumbed to a virulent strain of diphtheria. The child was born at the Hoosick Falls Health Center on August 24th and died at home in his mother’s arms on the chilly evening of October 25th.

The baby was born a strapping 12 pounds 3 ounces to the relief of his mother and the pride of his father. Perhaps it was their dad’s recent promotion at work or just the quiet expectation for life after the war but his sisters and brother sometimes idly speculated on the wonderful things in store for their youngest. Maybe he would grow up to be mayor or a business owner or even go to college. Whatever the reasons swirling in their heads, an unspoken promise of loving protection settled on the newborn’s days.

Morgan couldn’t resist the luxury of passing out a few celebratory cigars and, in turn, his regular bar mates bought a few rounds of ten cent drafts to toast the smiling Irishman. The proud dad, being the one man of a one man bank, was already planning a savings account in little Tommy’s name if there was two dollars to spare after his weekly pay was allocated in the cash envelopes. Nestled in a muddy brown accordion folder in the middle drawer of the big bedroom dresser each business sized envelope with the logo of Permanent Savings & Loan was labeled simply; Gas, Groceries, Electric. He was sure that, if managed with discipline and exposed to the miracle of compound interest, a sum could be saved to make all things possible for his namesake.

Judy Burke, who is well liked by friends in the church’s Ladies Sodality as well as the Alter and Rosary Society, was delighted to have one more child but already thinking she might move on to assume a greater role in the village comparable to her husband’s own ambitions.  When the child was off in school maybe she would volunteer at the nursing home or even rekindle her career as a teacher if she could convince the parish priests of the wisdom of kindergarten.

The passing of one so young was jarring to neighbors and friends across the small village. In whispered conversations in Murphy’s grocery or around the backyard clotheslines of the Second Ward women sighed while holding their own heart tight against the possible loss of their own. Up and down the bar at the American House men shook their heads, paused a moment then sipped their beers once again. The parish priests sat in the gloom of the rectory pondering how to strike the proper pose between tragedy and funereal acceptance.

Tommy’s oldest sister Barbara was stunned into silence by the abrupt re-writing of her budding life trajectory. The younger sister Maureen, who narrowly escaped the disease herself, could only look up from her kitchen chair to imagine the significance of the menacing silence in her house. Mike, his brother, tried to spend as much time as possible out alone by the tracks trying to make sense of the wound that had opened in his young heart. The nuns, silently negotiating the halls of the convent, fumbled with the beads at their waist while reconciling that, for Judy’s young sonn  there would be no first communion, confirmation or alter boy lessons. His doting aunts speculated about the family reunions to come and about the sadness that would privately creep into those summer afternoons.

Mr. Burke has assured customers of the Permanent Savings & Loan that the office will be open for business as usual Monday morning.