RIP Helenlouise Row Burke…A Montauk Icon

by Patria Baradi Pacis

Helenlouise Row Burke, 1931-2020

Helenlouise Row Burke was a good friend.  She loved life and was full of energy.  My husband Cam and I first met Helen twenty years ago at Montauk Downs after we moved to Montauk and took up golfing.  Every time we checked in, she greeted us with a smile and made sure our ID’s were in order.The golfers called her Ms. Fantastic. They loved her no-nonsense attitude.  When she retired in 2016 during the Montauk Downs Club Championship Tournament, PGA Professional Kevin Smith presented her with a plaque which read: STARTER EMERITUS MS. FANTASTIC – Ms. Helenlouise Burke, for 21 years of loyal service as a starter, at the famous, Robert Trent Jones-designed, Montauk Downs State Park Golf Course.”

We got to know Helen better when she sat next to my then 97 years old mom at the Montauk Senior Nutrition Center for lunch. She made us laugh telling jokes in her New England accent.  I remember asking her to say the word “car’ and she would say “caaarrrr” to amuse me. Helen also volunteered at the Montauk Community Church’s Rummage Sale on Saturdays and I had the pleasure of working next to her in the Men’s Department.

Helen was generous and thoughtful.  On my grand niece’s Elena’s 4th birthday party held at the Downs’ pool in 2013, after finding out she and her parents and grandmother loss their houses to Super Storm Sandy and moved in with us in 2012, she crocheted more than two dozen butterfly-shaped magnets for her pre-k classmates to take home. I am sure that many of Helen’s relatives and friends have one displayed on their refrigerator as my family does. Her small acts of kindness meant a lot to me.

Helen was very independent and a proud woman ahead of her times.  She drove everywhere in town. When fall came, we bid her farewell as she flew down to her second home in Boynton Beach, Florida. Then she returned in the spring to reunite with her family and friends and to resume her love for work at the Downs.

Helen was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 6, 1931 and had a brother Walter Jr., from parents Walter and Lillian Row who predeceased her.  She arrived in Montauk at the age of 18 and worked as a waitress at the Montauk Manor during summer while she attended Boston University in the fall.  She also worked at Maidstone Lane for 31 years and “retired” at Montauk Downs until 2016. She was married to James (Buddy) Burke of Montauk at St. Therese Lisieux Catholic Church for 25 years. Together they had three loving children, Alan, Elise and Jay of Montauk and are very active in the community.  Helen leaves behind seven grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.

When this reporter asked daughter Elise, “What is one of the fondest memories of your Mom?”  She replied: “Mom sewing clothes for my Barbie Doll as a child.” Precious moments never to be forgotten!

Helen died peacefully on August 21 at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue, Long Island with her family by her side and was cremated. In September, a private ceremony was held at Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk. She was 89 years old.