Julie’s Father. Cassie’s Grandfather, and my Father-In-Law, Thomas Joseph Burke, passed away in his sleep Sunday morning. He was 86 years young.
Tom came from a small farming community in Northeastern Iowa named Elma. He went to high school, did a two year hitch in the Army, and came home to marry a rare beauty named JoAnn, who lived in town. They were married for 65 years.
Tom got a job at a dairy making butter, and was so good that he was recruited by the Kraft Food Company. He worked his way through the ranks at Kraft and retired as the International Quality Control Manager with a seat on the Board of Directors.
He took early retirement when Philip Morris bought Kraft, returned to his adopted home of Kendallville, Indiana, and had a radical idea. Kendallville has a long and storied past given the fact that three of the largest Windmill Manufacturers in the US were headquartered there.
So he, and a couple of his buddies, started the Mid-America Windmill Museum. When he told us about the idea, we all looked at him like he was nuts. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
The Museum now has thousands of visitors annually. It boasts the largest collection of Antique Windmills in the US and the largest event facility in the area.
When I made my reservation at the hotel for the funeral this weekend, the hotel’s only claim to fame is that it’s 1.3 miles away from the museum. One of the only reasons they built that hotel in the first place, was to accommodate the museum’s visitors.
I will miss him terribly.
I was married later in life at the age of 32 and was scared of becoming a father. I shared my fears with him, and will never forget his words.
He said, “Chris, being a father is all about love. You simply need to love your children more than anything else in this world. Once you do that, the rest will fall into place.” He was right.
Tom’s story is the embodiment of The American Dream. He came from little, worked incredibly hard, and built something for his family. Along the way, he even built something for his community.
His story teaches us to follow our dreams. Do it now while you can. Life is short.
Tom, I’ll miss you, I love you, and I look forward to seeing you in the life to come.
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