Billy Burke

Every so often, I re-post this picture. I remember well the moment I had the idea to pull out my phone and take it — thinking it was a special moment in time. And it was.

The blog I wrote then, January 23, 2010, is here.

First Mom. Then Naomi. Then Paul.

And last night, in the presence of Leon, Phyllis, and Jackie — his closest family, and the ones who cared for him as he weakened — Billy Burke passed away.

He will be remembered for his talent at bridge and music, his ability to entertain. The joy he created when he sat at a piano. He played all over town (and, when he was younger, all over the state). Countless thousands marveled at his music. I was privileged to enjoy his performances at family dinners also.

Equally special was his knack not only as an artist, but as one who supported other artists.

He never missed a moment of theatre in Salisbury. Until he stopped driving, he didn’t miss much in the entire Piedmont region of North Carolina.

He had to pick and choose in New York, but he didn’t miss anything important. He took his vacations there and would schedule it all out  for a week — catching a matinee in the afternoon and a show at night

He was a Broadway encyclopedia.

I don’t think he missed many movies.

He loved it all.

The few plays I’ve produced in Salisbury, he attended. And he always, always asked me what I was writing.

When a writer who doesn’t make his living as a writer gets asked that question, that’s a gift. It feels good.

He always asked, as recently as a few months ago, at his final birthday party.

So many who would have missed him so much are no longer with us. He outlived them.

But there are a lot of us left who will never forget the special joy he was as a human being.


(L to R) Leon Zimmerman, Phyllis Zimmerman, Naomi Berhnardt, Paul Bernhardt, Rose Post, Billy Burke