July 30, 1937 – Aug. 20, 2018
Timothy P. Burke, of Amherst, a licensed private investigator and former chief of security at Buffalo Raceway in Hamburg, died Monday in Harris Hill Nursing Home, Clarence, after a short illness. He was 81.
Born in Buffalo, the second of six children, he was a 1955 graduate of Bishop Fallon High School, attended St. Lawrence College and earned an associate’s degree from Bryant & Stratton Business Institute.
In 1956, he began working for his parents’ company, Edward J. Burke Investigation and Auto Recovery Bureau, now E. J. Burke Security, and became a vice president. In the 1960s, it was the biggest detective agency in Western New York.
He established his own firm, Tim Burke Security Service, in 1966, and did work for his late brother, Edward Jr., who founded a nationally known security and armored car company, Burke Security Inc./E. J. Burke Jr. Inc.
Mr. Burke headed security operations at Buffalo Raceway from 1984 to 1994, then was an auditor for insurance companies. In 2002, he became a child support investigator for the Erie County Department of Social Services, retiring in 2012.
Active in St. Amelia’s Catholic Church, he was a past president of the Holy Name Society and was a Holy Name Society Man of the Year. He received the Monsignor John Lodge McHugh Lifelong Service Award in 2003.
In 1986, he brought a Lotto 48 ticket at Mergi’s Meats on Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda and was the sole winner of the $2 million jackpot.
The first thing he did before he turned in the winning ticket was change his home phone number.
“I knew what would happen,” he told Buffalo News reporter Gene Warner. “It would have been chaos.”
His wife, the former Regina Garey, interim nurse executive at Buffalo Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said that the windfall did not change their lives very much. They did not retire early. They did not buy an expensive home.
“We kept working and it helped pay for college education,” she said. “That Lotto ticket put five kids through college.”
They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last Oct. 21 by renewing their vows.
In recent years, they established the Sean Burke Memorial Scholarship Fund for students at St. Amelia’s School, which five of their children attended. Their son, Sean, who was a special education student, died unexpectedly 11 years ago.
In addition to his wife, survivors include three sons, Kevin, Peter and Timothy; two daughters, Maureen Mitchell and Colleen Sweeney; two sisters, Anne Creenan and Eileen Lestition; and eight grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24, in St. Amelia’s Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.