MILWAUKEE, WI (BRAIN)—It seemed appropriate that the memorial celebration for Dick Burke, founder and chairman of Trek Bicycle, was held on St. Patrick’s Day.
“We chose today before we realized the holiday; he was in charge as usual, as I truly believe he chose the day,” said Kathleen Seiberlich, Dick Burke’s eldest daughter.
Burke was part Irish, and proud of that heritage. He told his children, “If anyone asks, tell them you’re 100 percent green,” Seiberlich said.
Members of the Milwaukee community and the bike industry gathered last night, on the Irish holiday, to celebrate the life of the intrepid entrepreneur. Burke died last Monday of complications from heart surgery.
The evening included a succession of heartfelt speeches and a slide show, followed by a reception with food and beer featuring custom labels with his caricature and inscription. Those in attendance included more than 50 retailers from across the country.
Jay Graves, owner of the Bike Gallery in Portland, Oregon, spoke on behalf of the retail community. Tony Lo, president of Giant Bicycle, and Yozo Shimano, president of Shimano, also were among the honored speakers.
Shimano said he saw many similarities between Dick and his uncle Keizo Shimano.
“They would spend many a night, drinking—and discussing how to make the bicycle better,” Shimano said. “When Keizo passed away in 1995, Dick traveled to Japan to speak at my uncle’s funeral. He gave a heartfelt speech that my family will always remember. Now I stand in front of you today—to celebrate the life of ‘The Big Guy.’”
Although the bike community remembered Burke for his contribution to the industry, attendees were most surprised by and impressed with his philanthropic contributions that extended far beyond the bike industry.
His philanthropy was evident in the memorial location, the multi-million dollar Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, which Burke’s Trinity Foundation funded.
—Story and photo by Megan Tompkins