Harriet Burke passed away this past week with her family and friends surrounding her, telling jokes and stories of life and family. She left us on her terms, believing: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid sideways, chocolate in one hand, a margarita in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, WOO HOO, What a ride!”
Harriet Frances Ziegler was born August 17, 1931, in Long Beach California to Harry and Gertrude Ziegler. Harriet is an alumna of St. Anthony High School, Long Beach Community College, and graduated from Antioch University in Santa Barbara at the age of 61. In 1953 Harriet met and fell in love with Chuck Burke. Their whirlwind romance brought them to marriage in 1954 and their love sustained them for 53 years. They moved throughout Southern California, arriving in Santa Barbara in 1961, which they found to be a perfect place to raise their five children. Harriet encouraged her children to explore their skills and passions, be it art, gymnastics, Scouting, or 4-H.
In 1973 Chuck and Harriet attended a Marriage Encounter weekend – a Catholic retreat for married couples. They enthusiastically started facilitating encounters, helping establish the program in many other areas by traveling to Fresno, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Hawaii and the Philippines giving weekend retreats and training new teams and priests. Over 2000 couples benefited from Chuck and Harriet’s wisdom, faith and wit. They led by example, demonstrating the living quality of a marriage; they touched the lives of many by sharing communication skills and ways of living a committed, Christian marriage and life of faith.
Harriet co-authored a book, People, Promise and Community with three colleagues which was an aide for intergenerational gatherings to talk about faith, life, and community. In her years at St. Mark’s as a Pastoral Associate and Campus Minister, Harriet encouraged equality and validated that all ages could learn from one another.
An accomplishment of which she was most proud was encouraging UC Santa Barbara to found a Chair in Catholic Studies in the Religious Studies Department. The intention was to foster the exploration of the historical, cultural, and sociological backgrounds of Catholicism in order to promote mutual understanding among people of different beliefs and cultures. Harriet and Chuck gave the lead gift and worked tirelessly to raise funds to make this Chair a reality.
Chuck was the love of Harriet’s life. Together they built a one-of-a-kind family of 5 children, 10 grandchildren, and 10 great-grandchildren who Harriet described as “a great help and inspiration throughout her life.” Harriet loved to travel and trips often included up to four generations. Family gatherings were legendary and all family members knew that they were welcome to invite others to join in any of their festivities. Chuck and Harriet’s motto was “Our door, our table, our arms are always open.”
Harriet leaves her children, a son, Tim (Dana) Burke, Kathy Scheidemen, Mo (Jeff) Lovegreen, Bettie (Steve) Wenke, and Tricia (Kevin) Peters; and ten grandchildren, Elijah Scheidemen and Nathaniel (Miles) Burke (father, Jay); Jennie (Troy) Aguilera, Kristen (Andy) Diehl, Daniel (Ali) Burke, Anna (Josh) Lo, Piper Lovegreen, Ryan (and fiancée Emily), Bryce and Kaiya Peters, ten great-grandchildren, and a niece, Mary Ann Aufderheide.
A two-time survivor of breast cancer, Harriet donated her time and money to support cancer research as well as multiple charities and social justice organizations. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to: The Cancer Foundation of Santa Barbara, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Santa Barbara (PFLAG), Pacific Pride Foundation, Safe Parking Program (Santa Barbara New Beginnings Counseling Center), or Catholic Church of The Beatitudes.
Services will be held Saturday, January 12th at 11:00 a.m. at Catholic Church of The Beatitudes located at 2101 State Street.