Judith (Judy) H. Burk, an award-winning University of Pittsburgh graphic designer, successful sports memorabilia entrepreneur and dedicated church leader, died Wednesday, Feb. 26.
The Sewickley Twp. resident was 75.
Judy’s passing ended a four-year courageous, dignified quest to overcome the effects of a medical procedure that left her almost completely paralyzed. She died in the arms of John Burk, her husband of 45 years, in the presence of Bob Green, her pastor.
Although Judy always considered herself a native Pittsburgher, she was born on Aug. 10, 1944, in Long Beach, CA. Her father, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, was a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot stationed there. Her mother was a homemaker. In 1962, Judy graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School near Pittsburgh, then attended Carnegie Tech for one year, and earned a degree at Pittsburgh’s Ivy School of Professional Art.
In the mid-1960s, she launched her graphic design career at the University of Rochester. A year later she joined the staff of Pitt’s Department of News and Publications, now the Office of University Communications and Marketing. Her bold, innovative designs earned numerous awards. In the mid-1970s, she became the organization’s first female art director.
Vicki Dinsmore, one of Judy’s associates at Pitt and a close friend, praised Judy for her “joy, positivity, curiosity, creativity and love. They filled my life and heart whether near or far. She made the world around her so much sweeter and better than when she found it.”
Judy continued to lead Pitt’s graphic design department until 1986, when her husband’s job took the Burk family to Richland, WA. In the Evergreen State, she initiated her second career by operating a retail store offering sports cards and memorabilia several days a week. In Pittsburgh, she and John had collected sports memorabilia,
Soon the Washington store became a six-day per week business with comics, sports and non-sport lithographs, original artwork, autographs, magazines and other collectibles.
According to her husband John, “Judy liked and enjoyed people. She was a good listener. Her store became a place where customers congregated after work to discuss sports and other topics with friends and Judy.”
Later, and until her illness, Judy and John conducted online auctions, on their Collectible Classics website, of sports memorabilia consigned by collectors from the Pittsburgh area and across the country.
Away from business, Judy enjoyed cooking and baking, often exhibiting the creative spark that characterized her graphic designs. “Judy often talked about opening a catering business,” John said. “She supported one of my jobs by baking a cake for our organization’s monthly luncheon. She used whatever she had as the foundation for the cake - different candy bars, chocolate chips, various types of nuts. My co-workers looked forward to what they called JudyCakes.”
Judy’s favorite time of the year was Christmas. She collected nutcrackers and used them in decorating for the season. She also displayed a large collection of ceramic owls throughout her home. She appreciated flower arrangements, especially those with exotic plants – hanging heliconia, birds of paradise, proteas, ginger, etc.
Her religious faith was quietly at the core of Judy’s life. For five years before her illness, Judy was Lay Leader of Swissvale’s United Methodist Living Spirit Ministry. She arranged for a member of the congregation to lead one service each month, created audio-visual support for every service, produced a monthly newsletter for the congregation and participated in the church’s annual summer Vacation Bible School. Drawing upon her graphic capabilities, she designed a special logo for the church to support a new mission -- delivering increased support to the Swissvale community.
According to Rev. Dai Morgan, the church’s pastor, “Working with Judy was easy. One purpose of the Lay Leader is to sense the needs and morale of the congregation and to keep the pastor attuned. Judy was diligent and performed this role with love and care.”
After she became ill and could no longer travel to Swissvale, Judy attended services at nearby Madison United Methodist Church when her health permitted. “Being in church brought her peace and comfort,” John said. “Nothing was more important to her personally than attending the service.”
The church’s Pastor Green said Judy’s presence inspired many members of the congregation. “Judy seemed to recognize,” he said, “that however the extremes of life may seem at the time, this truth remains: we are better together, and through faith, we share the hope of eternity.”
John summed up Judy’s life this way: “Judy was one of the most competent individuals I ever encountered. Anything she seriously tried, she did well. Her leadership style was to set an example and quietly encourage others to follow.
“She was also independent, tenacious, loving and loved life. I’m not certain I could handle what she endured medically in the past four years. Judy did, mostly with a smile. She never gave up. Unfortunately, medical circumstances ultimately overwhelmed her.”
Judy was preceded in death by her father, Charles Edward Hanner; her mother, Dorothy Greene Hanner; and two brothers, Bill and Garrett “Bud” Hanner. Besides her husband John, she is survived by two sons, Barry McFarland Jr. of Trafford and John Garrett Burk of Sewickley Twp.; a brother Charles Hanner III of Hernando, FL; two nephews, Charles Hanner IV of Aldie, VA, and Nicholas Brannick of Newark, DE; and two nieces, Casey Peterson of Ashburn, VA, and Crissy Bowers of Bristow, Va. Also surviving are the children of Nicholas Brannick and his wife Erin – Kaelin, Liam and Nathaniel. These beloved godchildren, who knew Judy as “Gammy Juju,” brought an abundance of joy to her life.
Visitation will be Thursday, March 5, at the Shirley Funeral Home, 176 Clay Pike, North Huntingdon, from 2-8 p.m. A funeral service and celebration of Judy’s life is scheduled at 11 a.m. Friday at Madison United Methodist Church. PLEASE GO DIRECTLY TO THE CHURCH.
Instead of sending flowers, the family requests that contributions be made in Judy’s honor to Madison United Methodist Church, 142 Main St., Madison 15663.
Originally published March 02, 2020.