Brendan Burke, of Bayport, in an undated photo, died at the...

Brendan Burke, of Bayport, in an undated photo, died at the age of 77 on Jan. 30, 2024. He was an executive with the ABC TV network. Credit: Burke family

The neighborhood dad to his children’s friends in Bayport, and a human resources chief at the ABC television network, Brendan Burke was as down-to-earth as he was influential.

From the macro to the micro, he raised large sums for his alma mater, Marist College, while helping graduates gain a foothold in broadcasting careers.

His death of natural causes at age 77 on Jan. 30 at the Veterans' Victory House in South Carolina followed about six years of Alzheimer’s disease, said his son Terrence Burke of Wilton, Connecticut. His loss resonated broadly, and with the Marist community in particular.

“My 35-year career in network television is in a big part due to him,” said Alvin Patrick, an executive producer of CBS News in Manhattan and a 1986 Marist graduate. “He gave me an introduction that was key to everything that's happened since, and he did the same for countless Marist alumni.”

Sports producer C.J. Bottitta, a 1993 alumnus and longtime friend of Terrence Burke, remembers when Brendan Burke “took it upon himself to schedule a weekend for Terry and four or five other of us knuckleheads on our high school soccer team to go up to Marist” in upstate Poughkeepsie, “which was about a three-hour drive for him, where he’d set up mock admissions interviews for practice. He’d worked with the merit-admissions department to get us all time on someone's schedule to individually go through the process.”

Terrence Burke said, "He was always there to help and support people. It was just important to him. I don't know if it was his upbringing or Marist or his job in human resources, but he was kind of universal on that one. It didn't matter. Even people that might not have deserved it, it didn't matter to him.”

Brendan Thomas Burke was born Nov. 25, 1946, in Staten Island, the son of James and Mary Kelly Burke. He attended St. Peter's Boys High School in that borough and graduated from Marist College in 1968 with a degree in English. In his junior year, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a first lieutenant for three years, including one in Vietnam during the war. In 1970, he married Betsy Burke, whose last name coincidentally matched his.

He began his business career as a recruiter for the Wall Street brokerage F.I. duPont, Glore Forgan & Co., and later joined ABC, rising to become an executive with the human resources department. He remained until his retirement about a decade ago, when he and his wife moved to Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

While in Bayport, he was an active community member, coaching and umpiring for the Bayport-Blue Point Little League and coaching youth teams of the Baymen Soccer Club. He helped raise funds and contributed money to a town war memorial, and as a member of the Sayville Yacht Club — the family had a Sunfish sailboat — Burke volunteered with chicken cookouts, clambakes and Fourth of July parties.

His youngest child, Patrick Burke of Bayport, recalled an emblematic event.

“He actually did umpire a game that I was playing in, where it was the bottom of the ninth, two outs. I slid into home plate — and he was a man of honor. He called me out. We lost the game. It was maybe a long car ride home, but I forgave him pretty quickly after, because he was an honorable guy.”

Burke served as a member of the Marist board of trustees for 26 years, as alumni executive board president for four, and as a Marist Fund chair for both the national and alumni divisions. He received the Marist President’s Award and, in 2012, its inaugural Distinguished Service Alumni Award.

In addition to his wife and sons, he also is survived by daughters Bridget Cummings of West Nyack and Maura Lewis of Marietta, Georgia; and by grandchildren Lara, Owen, Marin, Finn, Mariana, Molly, Riley, Emily and Maeve. An older brother, Kenneth Burke, predeceased him.

A service was held Feb. 10 at Our Lady of the Snow in Blue Point. Military honors were presented at the ceremony. Cremation followed. Memorial contributions may be made in his name to Veterans’ Victory House of Walterboro, South Carolina, or to the Alzheimer's Association. A remembrance is planned for this spring or summer in South Carolina.

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