Christmas 2009

Merry Christmas!

Our best wishes to you all for a peaceful holiday season and a healthy new year.

Our family had losses—my brother—and gains—two grandsons—this year, as this life journey is wont to deliver.

Dr. John Burke, R.I.P.

Mary and John in Zürich, July 27, 2004On New Year’s Day, while on a Panama cruise we learned that my older brother John had passed away unexpectedly in Seattle. Our hurried return—at a time when most flights were full—involved a convoluted route from the next port Cartagena, to Bogotá, to Panama City, to San Salvador, and finally to LAX.

John's Final Resting PlaceThen it was on to Seattle. We attended a memorial service at UW, where John had taught philosophy and been student adviser. Former students and work colleagues paid tribute to him as a consummate and supportive teacher and mentor. With son Rev. David Burke officiating, we spread John’s ashes on campus under Ionic columns in the Sylvan Grove, a favorite meditative spot.

Mom’s Setback

Ballooning over the Hills of Templeton and Paso RoblesMy mother’s fall in their new home in Paso Robles, followed by a hip replacement and weeks in a rehab was a setback in many ways, but we knew she was ready to come home when she threatened to hit the cook with a breadstick for failing to satisfy her culinary needs. It’s always good to speak your mind!

My dad worked on some gardening projects in their new home, and has continued writing garden columns for various publications. In July he and Larry took a hot-air balloon trip over Paso Robles hills and wineries.

Springtime in Arizona

Chihuly's Scorpion Tails and BambooSpring break found us again in Arizona, poking around Sedona, Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tucson. We learned some architecture history at Scottsdale’s Taliesin West, which the locals must have considered pretty far out when Frank Lloyd Wright built it, and we wandered the Desert Botanical Garden to admire the enormous glass exhibits by Chihuly “planted” alongside desert cacti.

Auto Trip to Idaho, Bozeman, and Back

Jerome, ID: Larry, Aunt Jackie Last, Mary, Uncle Bill, Daughter Becky and RobIn mid-May, we headed north to visit friends and relatives and tour portions of the western half of the Colorado Plateau. We enjoyed catching up with Carolyn and Jerry in Pollock Pines, CA, my cousins Jane and Ramón in Elko, NV, the Uncle Jim Burke clan in Boise, and Aunt Jackie Last’s family in Jerome.

With coaching from Aunt Ruby’s sister and a local police dispatcher, we located the Burke family farm (1930-1950s) in Burley, a visit that jogged many memories from my childhood summer trips to the farm.

Inspiration Point in Bryce Canyon National ParkIn Twin Falls we watched B.A.S.E. jumpers at Perrine Bridge, were awed by Shoshone Falls, and then headed to Bozeman, MT, to see Aunt Nancy Mitchell and my cousins before turning south into Yellowstone.

During our trek back, we drank in the natural beauty of this country, a theme reinforced by Ken Burns’ recent National Parks series on PBS. In spite of rain and cloudy skies, the jewel-like colors of wet canyon walls in the six national parks we visited were spectacular.

Cathy (“Law”) + Kirk and Tori

All our children and spouses are still employed, a blessing in these struggling times.

Cathy and Kirk at Tori's Second Birthday Party at Scooter's JungleIn January, LAPD opened a new Topanga Station in the west San Fernando Valley, where Sgt. Cathy is now a watch commander. The station made the news when a marijuana-growing operation only 25 feet away was discovered. “You can smell the stuff,” Cathy said.

Cousins: Cathy and Tori, Brian and LucieKirk’s still working on deployment downtown in the new Police Administration Building, studying for the lieutenant’s exam, and teaching karate in his garage weekends.

Tori turns three mid-January, and has made impressive strides with various therapies (speech, group, and child development) for developmental delays diagnosed earlier this year.

Jenny (“Order”)

Jenny with Mary on a Wet December DayThe Firm (Jones-Day) keeps Jenny busy with cases for Fortune 500 companies balanced with pro bono domestic violence cases. She’s pleased that she could prevent a man from kidnapping his children to another country, and help a woman regain custody of her child after the abuser falsely accused her of domestic violence.


Brian + Marion and Lucie, Nicky & Jamie

Nicholas Lewis and James Gustav Riggs, born September 24, 2009Marion and Brian upped our numbers and increased their stress level by producing fraternal twin boys this fall. James and Nicholas arrived September 24, at 5 lb each. They are now double that, eating every 2½ hours, taking turns screaming, starting to smile and doing the things babies do, only double!

Laughing Lucie, the Girl with the Smile that Melts IceLucie is being a helpful big sister, but has to deal with the reduced attention (best quote: “But I’m a baby, too!”). Marion’s mom Christine spent ten weeks with them in Berkeley helping out, with Klaus arriving in November to play “pass the baby around” and provide that Bavarian touch.

The Twins at 17 Days: Christine, Marion, Mary, Brian, and LucieA part-time nanny now helps in the mornings, and Lucie still has day-care. The three weeks Lucie spent with Klaus and Christine in Munich last summer really improved her language; it’s humbling to hear her German fluency.

Brian’s job with Adobe has survived two rounds of lay-offs, and he seems optimistic about this next year.


Larry with David at Lunch in Brentwood in DecemberDavid’s enterprise, Rockbox Media, has grown, with an office, employees, and expansion plans for 2010. The business develops online advertising technology that “monetizes” ads on Facebook and MySpace, primarily in the online dating area. He’s become a familiar sight at MySpace’s Santa Monica office.

Among his revenue sources is I guess as long as there are single folks looking to get connected, he’ll prosper. His contacts with various client companies are extensive and he seems to enjoy this role.

Larry’s Still Playing with Computers

Larry continues his service as computer adviser for the church and for countless other folks. He has created and maintains my new course website at

He serves on a couple community committees, sometimes lamenting the time they take away from daily Sudokus.

As the computer world is continuously evolving, Larry tries to stay current. I recently noticed three books on Joomla!, a web technology, stacked by his keyboard.

I’m Still Teaching at CSUN

School is about the same, except for this “furlough” program and pay cuts. It’s sad to see the economic mess California has become. But I still have work, so I won’t complain. The spring semester will have me teaching three or four classes, not bad for a part-timer.

Much love and best wishes to you all this year.

We send you the season’s greetings and best wishes for a happy and blessed 2009!