1927-2017Helen Louise (Defilippis) Burke, age 90, of Petaluma, CA, passed away on December 16, 2017. She was born December 9, 1927, in St. Helena, CA. She was a caring, faithful, and hard-working woman whose family and friends meant the world to her. Her childhood years were spent in Rutherford, CA, in the heart of the Napa Valley. She attended Rutherford Grammar School, a one-room schoolhouse surrounded by vineyards. The relationships she forged there formed the cornerstone of her life. Helen, her Defilippis siblings, and her friends called themselves “The Rutherford Gang”. As a teenager, she worked for the Daniel Family of Inglenook Winery as a live-in governess.
She went on to graduate from St. Helena High School and to work at Beringer Brothers Winery for Mr. Fred Abruzzini and at Beaulieu Vineyards as a lab assistant for renowned enologist Andre Tchelistcheff. Upon leaving the Napa Valley, she worked for the Petaluma Chamber of Commerce. In Petaluma, she met the love of her life Francis E. Burke.
Fran and Helen were married in May of 1953, and over the next 65 years they raised five children. She was a supportive partner in Fran’s activities, including Pop Warner Football and active recruiting efforts for the United States Merchant Marine Academy, King’s Point, NY. In Petaluma, Helen spent 25 years working for her cousins at Pedroni’s Delicatessen. She later joined Lucky’s Deli Department until her retirement in 1998, at 70 years of age.
Although Helen was a person you could always count on, she required little fanfare for her work. As a devout parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, she was an active member of Catholic Ladies Social Service and St. Vincent’s Mothers’ Club, running the carnival games at the annual bazaar for many years. She was a 4-H leader for the Old Adobe 4-H Club and a Petaluma High School Booster. If you played football while her boys were in high school, you had many a pre-game meal at their home or at the Petaluma Boy’s Club that were organized and prepared by Helen. Additionally, she hosted many events for the PHS German and French Clubs. She even hosted parties for the SRJC French Club.
This dynamic woman considered her greatest accomplishment to be her children and grandchildren. If you are judged by what you leave behind, our “Nonie” was a hero. She expected much from her children and required even more. At the same time, she was kind, compassionate, open to new ideas, and an advocate for women, long before any such movement existed. She cared deeply about others and put their needs ahead of her own.
Helen is survived by her husband Francis E. Burke of Petaluma; their children, Cherie Mitchell of Hidden Valley Lake, CA, Rory Burke of Cotati, CA, Nancy Burke Barr (Jay) of Dongguan, China, John Burke (Carla) of Nevada City, CA, Michael Burke (Sherril) of Billings, MT, and Gina Burke Tarke (David) of Sutter, CA. She is also survived by her sisters-in-law, June Defilippis and Dorothy Defilippis. In addition, she is survived by 12 grandchildren, Shanon Mitchell, Kevin Mitchell (Tuy), Shona Burke (Christopher Palbicki), Shay Burke (Lauren), Jayme Barr, Sarah Barr, Scott Barr, Don Gray (Amber), Eugene Burke (Lauren), Michaela Stevens (David), Franklin Tarke, and Leighton Tarke. There are six great-grandchildren with one on the way and beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins.
She was preceded in death by her parents Eugene and Louise Defilippis, her sisters, Linda Branch and Alice Abruzzini, and her brothers, Joe, Gene, and Frank Defilippis.
Visitation will be Friday, December 22, 2017 from 2:00 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. at PARENT-SORENSEN MORTUARY & CREMATORY, Petaluma, with the Vigil Service at 6:00 P.M. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 11:00 A.M. at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Petaluma.
In lieu of flowers, Helen requested donations to: St. Vincent de Paul Church, 35 Liberty St., Petaluma, CA 94952; Petaluma High School Associated Student Body, 201 Fair St., Petaluma, CA 94952 or to COTS (Committee on the Shelterless), Mary Isaak Center, 900 Hopper St., Petaluma, CA 94952