Rosetta (Rosie) Marian Burke passed away at her home in Columbia Falls, Montana, on October 9, 2019, after a long and tenacious battle with cancer.
Rosie was born on August 17, 1935, in Lewistown, Montana, to Iverene and Albert Ayers. She, with her four brothers, grew up in Grass Range and Lewistown and other small towns in central Montana. After her first marriage, she moved to Minneapolis to pursue an education in laboratory technology.
She then moved with her three children to Plentywood in northeastern Montana, where she began her career as a laboratory technologist. It was in Plentywood where she met the love of her life, Robert (Bob) Burke. They married at Rosie’s parents’ farm near Grass Range in 1966 and soon moved to a small farm outside of Columbia Falls, where they resided for the rest of their lives.
For the majority of her career, Rosie worked at the Whitefish Hospital and then the Whitefish Clinic. Additionally, for a short time, she and a friend had their own laboratory, P&R Labs. She was extremely well respected for her professional skills.
Rosie spent her free time working with Bob on the farm and raising their children. She also loved to go fishing and boating with her family and eventually took up beekeeping. She was well known for “Rosie’s Wildflower Honey” and became an advocate of baking with honey instead of sugar. Even after she gave up her own beehives, she remained a mentor to younger beekeepers who continued to learn from her until just days before her death. Rosie had also earned her black belt in judo, enjoyed snowmobiling and downhill and cross country skiing, and was well known for riding her bicycle back and forth to work in Whitefish for many years, often going “the long way” to ensure a 35-mile round trip. She stopped riding her bike so she could spend time in the evenings with her mother who was in a nursing home. Not one to sit idly, she soon set up a home gym and until just recently exercised daily for at least an hour, alternating between the treadmill, elliptical, bicycle, and her Bowflex. It is no wonder cancer had such a hard battle; Rosie was in shape. In her later years, she also became a rock hound and learned how to facet gems and stones to make beautiful jewelry.
Throughout their life together, Rosie and Bob constantly opened their home to family and friends in need, providing not only shelter but also love (sometimes “tough love”) and guidance. Rosie was tough, but you could always count on her, and she would always tell you the truth, even if you didn’t like it.
After retiring, Rosie volunteered with the Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force, where she loved to work alongside her many friends to reduce the population of stray cats and dogs in the Flathead. She did this until cancer slowed her down in 2017, at the age of 82. When she “retired” from her volunteer work, she still enjoyed the monthly lunches with her friends at the Task Force and also with her former coworkers from the Whitefish Clinic.
Rosie is survived by her three children, Richard (Sue) Burke, Dale (Winnifred) Burke, all of Columbia Falls, and Tracie Burke (Maureen O’Brien), of Memphis, Tennessee. She also leaves her grandson Josh Burke (Jennilee) and great grandchildren Sydnee and Parker, great granddaughter Alyssa Leimkuehler, as well as several stepgrandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her mother and stepfather, Iverene and Fred Triepke of Lewistown, Montana, husband Robert (Bob) Burke, her four brothers, Walt Ayers of Kalispell, Montana, Don Ayers of Edmonton, Alberta, Kenny Ayers of Lewistown, Montana, and Tom Ayers of Lewistown, Montana, and two grandchildren, Peggy Burke and Travis Burke, of Plentywood, Montana.
The family is grateful to all of Rosie’s friends and family for their visits and calls over the past several months, especially her niece Roxy Ayers Iverson, who was a constant companion. They also wish to thank her longtime primary care provider, Rayne Beach, the professionals at Kalispell Regional Health who provided treatment during her recent illnesses (with a special tip of the nurse’s hat to Jane Mildren), and her caregivers from Loyal Care.
Services for Rosie will be held Tuesday, October 15, 2019, at 12:00pm at the Columbia Mortuary in Columbia Falls. Light refreshments will be served after. Rosie was a very practical lady who eschewed sentimentality. She could often be heard to say “What other people spend on booze, I spend on my dogs,” so should friends desire, in lieu of flowers, a memorial contribution to Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force would be a most fitting tribute to this woman who was a true force of nature.
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