Aubrey Burke, an Apple Valley resident and World War II veteran who “kept the birds in the air” as an Army Air Force machinist, has died. He was 97 years old.
Burke’s wife Beverly told the daily press on Thursday that he died on December 11 after “heart failure” on the way to Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley.
“Aubrey was cremated in Riverside National Cemetery, but we didn’t have a church service in town because of the pandemic,” said Beverly Burke. “I’m almost 90 and I’ve never been so insecure in my life.”
Aubrey Burke is survived by his son Stephen; and daughters, Patricia and Peggy; several grandchildren; Great-great-grandchildren; His wife’s children and “the entire High Desert,” said Beverly Burke.
The death is preceded by a son, Paul Joshua Burke, who, according to Beverly Burke, was allegedly murdered along with his wife in a house in Murrieta in 2019.
“Paul’s death was the most tragic event in Aubrey’s life,” said Beverly Burke. “His death shook him to the core.”
In a 2017 interview, Aubrey Burke told the daily press that he met Beverly at the Apple Valley Senior Center about five years earlier. The two later married at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church. It was the third marriage for both of them.
During the interview, the quick-witted veteran said Beverly kept him young. He attributed his longevity and health to his late mother, who “passed on her genetics” and celebrated her 94th birthday.
Aubrey Burke is from Arkansas and previously lived in Canada and Long Beach. He described himself as a PowerPoint and social media expert who lived an active lifestyle.
“Aubrey was the longest member of Kiwanis in the Apple Valley and one of the original and ongoing active parishioners of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church,” said his wife.
Burke had a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern California and courses for a master’s degree in business administration.
In a letter, Beverly Burke said her husband recently completed his final project: a fence around the couple’s front yard.
“Every piece was designed, made, and made by the man who could – and did – everything,” she said. “Someone else could order a fence – Aubrey ordered wood – and literally make any batten that went into that fence – like only Burke could.”
After graduating from high school in 1940, Aubrey Burke trained to be a machinist in the National Youth Administration, a program initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The program aimed to get people back to work after the Great Depression, Beverly Burke said.
Aubrey Burke shipped off to Hartford, Connecticut to train in the program for less than a year before joining the Army Air Corps in 1941. The AAC later became known as the Army Air Force.
Aubrey Burke told the daily press that he had joined the Air Force to prevent him from being drafted as a “foot soldier”.
He served in the 8th Air Force in England and was stationed there at the Royal Air Force Station Wendling, where he supported B-24 bombers.
The veteran said he never saw a fight during the war, but survived two air strikes while stationed in Europe.
Beverly Burke said her husband had hoped to become a pilot but his poor eyesight led him to the bomber mechanic’s field, where he often said, “We fixed those who were shot to see they were back in the air. “
Aubrey Burke once created an original “communion cup” from used shells from a “shot up” airplane that continues to adorn Burke’s living room. He often spoke of seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time when he returned home from the war.
“It was the most incredible sight to see the Statue of Liberty when you get home,” said Beverly Burke. “This was also the grand finale in the segment performed on Aubrey for the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.”
During his time in the army, Aubrey met and married Burke Milena, who later became the mother of their three children. The marriage lasted 26 years before they divorced.
He first moved to Victorville in 1950, where he worked at Victorville Army Air Field, which later became George Air Force Base before closing in 1993.
After Aubrey Burke found out that the Bachelor did not suit him, he started a chapter of parents without partners in the high desert, where he met his second wife Marion. After the couple got married, Aubrey Burke adopted Marion’s 10-year-old son.
Aubrey Burke worked for the Southwest Portland Cement Company for 22 years. He also owned Burke’s Interiors in addition to Marion, who died in 2004, the Daily Press reported.
Beverly Burke called her husband a “politician at heart” and added that he was a passionate Democrat. When they met, Aubrey Burke told her how in 1959 he sat with the delegation that “threw Jack Kennedy’s hat into the ring to become the next President of the United States”.
After the couple got married, they traveled frequently and always attended the 8th meeting of the Air Force Historical Society in New Orleans.
Beverly Burke said they enjoyed trips to her hometown of Kansas City as well as Little Rock, where Aubrey Burke was born. However, her favorite destination was Lake Louise in Calgary, Canada. Beverly Burke described the place as “a little place we call our own”.
“I’ve started a new chapter in life,” said Beverly Burke. “I wish Aubrey were still here so we can enjoy the last one.”
Daily press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz can be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.