Sydney’s Irish community is mourning the death of popular businessman Jim Burke, who passed away on July 3, aged 59 after a four-year battle with cancer.
Jim Burke died surrounded by his loving family; wife Gill, children Clare, Liam and Niamh; and his stepdaughter, Katie. He is also mourned by his siblings in Ireland: Gene, Luke and sister Breege.
Burkie, as he was known, is remembered by his many friends as a larger-than-life, wonderful person who made an impression on anyone who ever met him.
Born in Keady, Co Armagh on September 18, 1959, Peter James Burke went to secondary school at St Patrick’s College, Armagh, from 1971 to 1978, where he was an active member of the school’s Gaelic football and basketball teams. He also played football and hurling for Keady.
After completing his A-Levels, he went to Queens University, Belfast where he graduated with a BSc in computing science in 1982. He then did a postgraduate course in Education and took up a career as a secondary school teacher.
In the mid-eighties, he and his then-wife Stephanie, emigrated to Australia.
He was a teacher at Patrician Brothers Granville, then made the shift to a corporate world which was crying out for people with computer science knowledge. He joined Bank of New Zealand and later Westpac, working in the London office.
On his return to Australia, he worked for AMP and IAG. Returning to Westpac, he became the CIO for Institutional Banking .
There, he managed the introduction of a number of innovative payment systems. In 2013, he was nominated for Finance CIO of the year. He was also an enthusiastic member of the Lansdowne Club.
His boss and friend, Jim Tate of Westpac wrote of him: “He is the most inventive and intuitive people manager I have met. He knew how to recognise strengths, weaknesses, aspiration, resilience, what person to talk to, who to avoid and what roadblock to work around, which no amount of faux online personality tester could ever deduce.”
In his last months, he asked Professor Tom Hugh at Royal North Shore Hospital, what he could do to help cancer research. He set up a foundation aiming to raise $120,000. Through Westpac, Jim helped organise a fundraiser on May 17 last. At least 300 people showed up. It was funny, moving and successful and more than $180,000 was raised on the day. The foundation is now up to $250,000.
His work continues as the Jim Burke foundation for Liver Cancer Research. Donations can be made here.
One of his oldest friends from St Pat’s in Armagh said of him: “You stuffed in so much over your life that the suitcase of memories and friends burst at the seams…. When I think of you, I smile.”
So should we all.
His funeral service will be held at St Joseph’s College chapel, Hunters Hill on Thursday July 11 at 10.30am.