Published: August 5, 2008
James Robert “Jim” Burk, Sr, 78, died August 3, after a brief stay at the Essa Flory Hospice Center, Lancaster. Born September 8, 1929, in Peach Bottom, Penn., he was the son of the late Edward L. and Lula (Drake) Burk. He was married to Donna M. (Stermer) Burk on April 12, 1953.
Burk was a jovial, colorful and nationally known antiques show promoter managing the Greater York Antique Show and Sale for the past 38 years. He also managed other antiques shows at various locations.
Burk related his history with antiques in an introductory letter posted on his website stating, “I was working in the real estate business many years ago when I visited an elderly man on North Charlotte Street who wanted to sell his house and move into a retirement home. I noticed the house was filled with older furnishings and asked the man what he planned to do with them. A used furniture dealer was offering a mere $500 for everything, I was told. I offered to get the elderly man a better price so I arranged to have the items auctioned. The final tally: $15,000. I have had my hands in the antique business ever since.”
Burk promoted his first antiques show in New Oxford, Penn., in 1968, after taking over for another promoter who had retired. “I discovered how much I enjoy promoting shows and have been doing so ever since with the help of my wife Donna, who I have been happily married to for nearly 53 years,” commented Burk in his letter.
Burk had recently collaborated with fellow show promoter Barry Cohen of B4rTime, who commented, “What a shock it was to wake up this morning and hear the news of Jim’s passing.” Burk and Cohen had developed and jointly promoted shows in Philadelphia in both 2006 and 2007.
“I was going to his shows as a teenager,” commented Cohen, “and 20 years later when I went into the business, after a rocky beginning, Jim and I came to have a cordial and beneficial relationship. I viewed him as a mentor and colleague, and I learned a tremendous amount from the long talks we would have.”
R. Scudder Smith, publisher of Antiques and The Arts Weekly, commented, “We always looked forward to our spring and fall visits to York from the beginning to take in Jim Burk’s shows.
“There was never any question as to what was on Jim’s mind as he never withheld any opinions or ideas concerning the antiques business,” stated Smith. “He ran a tight ship, which was reflected by the quality of his shows.”
“He was the best friend you could ever want to have, especially if you were an antiques dealer,” commented longtime friend Betty Berdan, who began doing Burk’s York show more than 20 years ago. Berdan recollected asking Burk if she could exhibit at York and was told by the promoter, “When I have an opening.” “One night,” recalled the dealer, “we went to bed early and the phone rang around 11. My husband Michael went to answer it and I told him to let the answering machine take the message. Well, we heard Jim’s voice saying he had an opening for us, I jumped out of bed, slipped and fell on my head, and we have been doing the show ever since.”
“I don’t think the business will ever be the same with Jim gone; it is a real loss and I feel a great sadness,” she said.
Berdan also commented on one of Burk’s greatest loves, Doby, his golden retriever. “Twelve years ago at one of the York shows, just about ten minutes before the show opened, Jim called my name over the loudspeaker and requested that I come to the show office. When I got there he handed me a golden puppy. I asked him what I was supposed to do with it and he said, ‘It’s yours, but I get first pick of her first litter.’ Well Jim’s pick was Doby and we all know how much he loved that dog.”
“The association is so saddened to hear of the death of Jim Burk,” said New Hampshire Antiques Dealers Association board member Sharon Platt, the board’s vice president of communications. “He dedicated himself to, and played such a prominent role in, the passion of collecting. For those of us who knew, respected and worked with him at the Greater York Show, his presence will be so missed.”
An avid shotgunner and target shooter, Burk was a highly respected competitor as a member of the Amateur Trapshooting Association and a visible and friendly face at the Pennsylvania State Trap Championships and at numerous local shoots. He was also a member of the NRA, various sportsmen clubs and an avid big game hunter.
He is survived by his wife Donna; two sons, James R. Burk, Jr, of Lancaster and Jeffrey L. Burk of Lancaster; daughter Tamara Burk Gebhart of Lancaster; six grandchildren; a great granddaughter; three brothers, Edward Burk, Jr, Donald Burk and Richard Burk; and two sisters, Janet West and Audrey Henry. He was preceded in death by his brother William and grandson Brent Burk.
Funeral services were conducted Wednesday, August 6, and a private interment took place at the St Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery, Felton, Penn. Remembrances in Jim Burk’s name can be made to the Hospice of Lancaster County, 685 Good Drive, PO Box 4125, Lancaster PA 17604.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm