David Burke

Our classmate David Burke died peacefully on May 10, 2024 in his beloved City of Paris where he had lived for 38 years, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. His wife Joanne survives him along with his sons David Jr. (Bangkok) and Steve (Connecticut). His youngest son, Jesse, died in 2013, leaving one grandson, Robert (Singapore). Besides his immediate family and a rich variety of friends around the world, he is also survived by two brothers, Joseph (Madrid), Larry (Massachusetts) and brother in law James (Connecticut). His sister Anne died in 2022.

Known to his friends and classmates as a gentle, happy polymath, Dave had a great sense of humor and a fund of knowledge about many subjects He was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, attended Taft Preparatory School, then Yale University where he became Editor of the Yale Literary Magazine. He then did his military time in Korea with the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) and after his discharge attended the exclusive Yale School of Drama for two years of graduate study in playwriting and dramatic literature.

Dave devoted his career to literature, music, history, television and films, starting as a researcher/writer on a PBS documentary series, moving on to ABC, NBC, more PBS, Producer of Consumer Reports TV, and for a decade CBS News as writer/producer with Walter Cronkite on The 21st Century and on 60 Minutes with Dan Rather and Ed Bradley.

Dave and Joanne were married for 56 years, and moved to Paris in 1986, where he did freelance magazine and travel writing for Harper-Collins, followed by “Travelers Guide to Mediterranean France” for the Insiders-Guide series. He then wrote the book close to his heart, the highly acclaimed “Writers In Paris – Literary Lives in the City of Light’’ that told the stories of writers over the centuries who lived, worked, loved and died in Paris, currently available on Amazon. Evolving from the book, “David Burke’s Writers In Paris Walking Tours” was enjoyed by many of his classmates and was cited in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 listing for literary walking tours worldwide.

At the same time he made documentary films in collaboration with his wife Joanne. Dave wrote the scripts for a series of documentaries about grass-roots women in developing countries changing the lives of people around them, and took over the role of cameraman as well. Their four part series “New Directions” took them to Africa, Asia and Central America and were distributed to colleges and universities by Women Make Movies Inc.

The couple also produced a film about the great jazz pianist/arranger/composer Mary Lou Williams, “ Music on My Mind.” Written by Dave, the film was broadcast on PBS, BET, CBC, ARTE and other stations in Europe.

Dave’s writing and camera work continued with a series of nine short documentaries about African Americans who came to Paris during the 1920s and 30s. “When African Americans Came to Paris” won a major prize at the Black International Cinema festival in Berlin in 2015 and was distributed widely to schools, universities and libraries.

“Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light,” a comprehensive one-hour documentary film about African American writers, artists, jazz musicians and entertainers in France from 1918-1940 followed with Dave writing the script and handling the camera. After winning awards at several festivals, The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. invited the film makers to show “Paris Noir” at the Oprah Winfrey Theatre in 2016.

Before Alzheimer’s took over his life Dave wrote an 80-page companion book to “Paris Noir.” “When African Americans Came to Paris” is filled with photographs, posters and paintings that showcased his wonderful insight and knowledge of the history of the period.

We will certainly miss this talented writer, film-maker, great friend and bon vivant. Joanne Burke may be reached at Joanneparis36@gmail.com