Samuel Jessie Burke III of Jonesborough passed away suddenly on Friday, October 27 at Johnson City Medical following complications due to open heart surgery. He was born to Samuel and Natalie Burke on May 2, 1950 in Dante, Virginia and was a longtime resident of Jonesborough, Tennessee. He is survived by his loving wife, Nicki Burke, three children, Carlo Gerarde and his son Corbin, Beau Gerarde and his daughter Milania, and Natalie Michels, her husband Joseph and their daughter Quinn, three sisters, Jayne Ambrose, Teresa Burke and Rebecca Burke, nieces, nephews, and life-long friend Tom Lloyd.
Raised in a military family, he graduated in 1968 from Frankfurt High School-Frankfurt, Germany and spent some of his formative years living at Fort Richardson and Wildwood Station in Alaska where he discovered his love of fishing. Sam served as a Sgt. in the Air Defense Artillery branch of the US Army as a HAWK missile radar technician.
Music was Sam’s passion. A gifted bass player and vocalist he was invaluable to the musical community. Following his stint in the Army as a young man, he became active in music and traveled extensively as a road musician. Since settling in the Tri-Cities he became a member and major contributor to many popular musical ensembles including the Jonesborough Novelty Band, the Johnson City Symphony, Steve Sheehan, Mirage, the Road Company, the Bill Perkins trio, the Normaltones, the Jazz Annex Trio, Blue Rapture, the Richard Houser/Greg Smith ensemble, Lightnin’ Charlie and the Upsetters, Frito Puente, and the Mudbugs. As a member of the Jonesborough Novelty Band for 25 years, he helped to raise over $50,000 to benefit Habitat for Humanity. His knowledge and abilities made him a go-to sessions player and valued member of any musical project that was fortunate enough to attract him to join.
Sam was a faculty member in the Department of Computing at ETSU for 15 years. As director of the department’s Using Information Technology component, he was responsible for providing computer knowledge to over 2000 students per year. His legacy will live on with all of the students fortunate enough to have learned from him.
For over 35 years, Sam was an integral part of the National Storytelling Festival in his role as Festival Tent Manager Coordinator. His work led to the continual refinement and seamless experience for festival attendees for decades. His love for the Storytellers, festival staff, audience, and the festival itself was evident in all of the work he did. His kindness and gentleness were hallmarks of his work.
Sam loved life. He loved his job, his family, his music, and above all his wife. Sam and Nicki’s marriage was a miracle of compatibility- each treated the other as if they felt they’d gotten lucky beyond any expectation. “What we once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes part of us.”
Sam’s spirit, joy, and talents will be celebrated on Friday, November 3 at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home in Jonesborough with visitation from 5:00-7:00 and an informal service to follow. Memorial contributions in Sam’s honor may be made to the Washington County Humane Society.
Condolences may be sent to the Burke family online at www.dillow-taylor.com.
Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Jonesborough, 753-3821
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|EULOGIES & CONDOLENCES|
I just wanted to send my heartfelt condolences to
you on the loss of your husband. I am still a
musician today, and we all feel your loss. While I
didn't know Sam, I know you, so he had to be a
great guy. May he rest in peace.
With Best Regards
|Sam was an authentic person. He was himself and
not apologetic about it. The memories are so
numerous; fireworks in Barnes being a strong one.
He and Tommy Lloyd were our dynamic duo.
My sincerest sympathies to Nikki and the kids. Try
not to be sad but thrilled to have lived and loved
a man of his character.|
|Although I did not know Sam as long as others - I so admired and appreciated him - he was an integral part of that deep and committed network - the fabric of the festival developed over so many years. His devotion along with that of others made the National Storytelling Festival supremely professional and supremely Family. He was an unforgettable help to all of us who performed and a fine musician to boot. Remembering him...|
|Sam, sweetly crochety, dear Sam. He had a magical way of
showing up whenever & wherever he was needed. He was a
fixer, a take-charge, do-it-right kind of guy who made me wish
he was my next-door neighbor. I loved seeing him early in the
mornings during festival weekend, coffee in hand, ready to get
the show on the road. We all knew we were in good hands
with Sam Burke. How I will miss him!|
|I am of the conviction that we are put on this Earth to serve.
Sam certainly spent his life in service to others. A great giant
of an example to us all.|
|i am so sorry for your loss of your husband you
and your family are in my through and prayers |
|I was truly blessed to have been a small part of
Sam's life. Sam had a way about him that was so
unique. Sam ran a tight ship at ETSU, he expected
the best from every instructor that worked under
him. And we, in turn, were inspired to deliver the
best to the thousands of students that we were
entrusted with. His style of management, and
leadership was very rare and special jewel. I will
treasure his friendship always. God bless.|
|Sam was a most thoughtful, considerate, respected,
and helpful friend and colleague. He was always an
uplifting soul ready to offer kind and valuable
advice. I will sorely miss running into him on
|My sincerest condolences to Nikki and all of Sam’s family.
Sam was one of the most kind hearted people you could ever
know. Rest In Peace my friend.|
||Perry Ann Butler
|I met Sam years ago through storytelling and so enjoyed running into him whenever he played with his various bands. He was a kind and generous man and a good friend. I am so sorry for your loss tho know he was well loved and respected.|
|I still cannot believe Sam is gone from us. He was so alive
and present. Sam was a tricky, growly, sweet and sensitive
old bear. He took care of me always in a very dear way. I
loved and am already missing him so very much.|
||Dave Carter - WETS
|Over the course of the 23 years Studio One has been on the air, Sam
was in that studio no less than 20 times with one band or another. It
seemed like he was everywhere. Always the professional, spot on
musician and at the same time friendly, polite, courteous and super
Conversation with Sam was easy, because he could talk about
anything. Knew something about everything.
The thing I will remember most was that he was always glad to see
me, at least he made me feel that way. I was certainly always glad to
see him because I knew great music was just ahead.
He loved his family, his community, his friends, his work, the arts and
music, music, music.
We all will miss Sam Burke. In so many ways.
My deepest condolences.
|I had Professor Burke in class a long time ago for
CSCI 1101 and since I became an Academic Advisor,
I worked with him periodically at ETSU to help
students. He was always so nice and friendly to
work with. He will be missed and my condolences
to his family and friends.|
|I met Sam back in May of this year. I had never met him before. But
there was a gentleness and loving personality about him that I liked
from the minute we met. He shared stories with me on so many
topics. I was looking forward to more times of sharing especially in
the music and technology field. So sad. RIP Sam|
|My condolences to Sam's family. I had the pleasure of working
with Sam in the early 1980's at ETSU. His laid back, easy
manner counterbalanced Jim Patterson's explosive nature
perfectly and enabled me to do my job. I enjoyed reading
about his life these last 30 + years. These is a void in many
|Rest In Peace Sam. You were a source of inspiration, a voice
of reason and a large part of the reason I managed to finish
Thank you for your guidance along the way.|
||Deb Wilkinson/Rick Wimberly
|Our condolences to Sam's wife Nicki and his family. He was an accomplished musician and supporter of music in the community. We will remember him as one of those who brought Jazz to the Tri-Cities many years ago. His death leaves a void in our music world.|
||Ed Stivender, Storyteller
|Sam Burke always had my back. During the Festival you could see him on the edge of the crowd watching carefully to see what needed to be done, and jumping in with his cart to get it done. The last time I saw him he noticed me trying to deal with an angry attender who couldn't get a cart ride to meet her mother. He tooled over to 'rescue' me and ended up taking the attender to where she needed to go, defusing the situation, and letting me get on with my work, stopping his own work to help a friend and serve a person in need. When he was in the area, all was well. There is no one like Sam Burke. I'll miss his knowing smile.|
|I am so sorry for your loss. Sam was a wonderful
person and I enjoyed many warm and thoughtful
conversations with him during my time as a graduate
student at ETSU. I probably would not be where I am
today if it was not for you.
My deepest condolences.
Benjamin Burton |
|My sympathies with Sam's wife Nicki,all the
family and all of us who loved and respected
him. Sam was a kind, smart, dedicated man and
so many of us in the storytelling world are in
shock with losing him. I first met Sam when he
began working with the National Storytelling
Festival all those years ago. And every fall
we would reconnect. And the last time I saw
him earlier this month, he was doing what he so
often did - helping the festival and all us
tellers and listeners have a memorable
experience. My gratitude to him.|
|Condolences to the family. Sam will surely be
|Sam was a great friend and colleague of mine. I
met him more than 20 years ago via his music
and I've been a colleague of his at ETSU for
nearly 20 years. His passing has been a huge
shock not only because of what his loss means
to me but because he was always the constant,
the rock I could depend on. His laugh was
contagious and nearly always present. He could
see the humor in so many situations. When
things went wrong, I could always depend on Sam
to show me that it was never as bad as it
seemed. Sam was a joy to be around, and I will
miss him more than I know how to express. May
God comfort his family and give them strength
||The International Storytelling Center staff
|Sam was a long-time friend to storytelling and the
staff of the International Storytelling Center. He
worked for the National Storytelling Festival for
over three decades. Sam was an integral part of
our team and central to the Festival’s success.
With great respect, the ISC staff sends
condolences to Sam’s family and many friends.
||Kiran Singh Sirah, Storytelling center, Jonesborough.
|It has only been in the last four years I've personally got to
meet and know Sam Burke. Sam, however, has a long history
as a Tent Management Coordinator for the National
Storytelling Festival. For over 30 years he did much of the
work and coordination that goes on behind the scenes. He is
one of the first on the festival grounds helping to set up
tents up before everyone arrives and one the last to leave
after everyone had gone. A hard working and passionate
supporter of storytelling in our community. And always he
was a joy to be around. A caring, kind and generous
gentleman. He will be missed by storytellers, volunteers, all
of us at the international storytelling center and i know many
of the festival attendees and friends that visit. Our love and
condolences to his family and his friends and all who knew
Sam Burke. May Sam rest in peace. |
|I am so very sorry. I will be thinking about all
of you during this sad time. Sending lots of love. |
|My heart is breaking for Nicki and the family. Through his behind-
the-scenes management of the tents, Sam made made the festival
experience better for thousands of people without their ever
knowing. I always enjoyed the conversations I was able to have with
Sam at various gatherings, mostly about food during pot luck picnics
and dinners. It made me happy when I could make him laugh, or if I
got an obscure musical reference he thought I wouldn't get. I will
miss his humor, his warmth, and his gruff-but-lovable persona. I've
had the lyrics to "Proper Cup of Coffee" in my head for days, and will
always hear Sam singing that song in my heart. |
| I really enjoyed playing music with Sam. He was a
fine bass player and all around musician. He will
be missed by all.|