At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Mackenzie's Animal Shelter
8935 Thompson Rd
Lake Odessa, MI 48849
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
Loving, caring, and supportive, Leatrice “Lea” Lu (Mercer) Burke devoted her life to her family. A woman who always saw the best in people, Lea led with her heart and proved a comfort for many. Lea’s persevering spirit, resourcefulness, and determination were evident in the many ways she ensured the good care of those she loved. Her devotion was unwavering, and her love was unconditional. A cherished wife, mother, and grandmother, Lea will long be remembered and so very missed.
Despite the obvious gloom of the Great Depression, many beheld a power of hope that undulated in the hearts of many. With a natural drive to not just endure but thrive in the face of uncertainty, the nation continued to put one foot in front of the other to build a better future. Nowhere was there a greater sense of hope than in the hearts of Walter and Luella Mercer as they welcomed their daughter Lea on September 10, 1936.
Growing up on Lake Michigan Drive in Standale, Michigan, Lea was the fifth of the Mercers’ nine children. Her father was a tool and die maker for GM, and her mother was a homemaker. A spirited tomboy, Lea loved being outdoors, playing baseball with her brothers, and tending to her critters. She loved animals, especially caring for abandoned baby rabbits, her pet cat Snowball, and her dog Billy, the border collie.
Lea attended Delaney School, Union High School, and Newaygo High School. As a teen, she often helped at her neighbor’s, the Heyboers’ flower shop, Rosedale Floral, when they were out of town. Esther Heyboer was her best friend. Lea also worked in several factories over her lifetime. She worked at Miller Metals and Wadell Wood Manufacturing before joining the team at Therica, where she was an expert painter for over 42 years before retiring. A couple of her special projects included navigation parts for the space shuttle and the emblem for the Shelby Mustang. Highly revered for her work, she was even after retirement she was consulted about various set-ups and projects.
While babysitting for the young Burke children, Lea met and came to know their older brother, Richard. The couple eventually married and were blessed with four children. Sheree, Rick, Colleen, and Marjorie were Lea’s heart’s delight, and she totally devoted herself to creating a loving, fun, and supportive home for them. Over the years, the family had homes on the west side, northeast, and eventually on Bristol NW. A great mom, Lea was steadfast in her children’s lives. While she held the primary responsibility for creating and maintaining loving and supportive structures for her children, she also made sure they had a lot of fun. Horseplay, games, and activities were always encouraged. As the family only had one car, Lea walked daily to and from work. She taught her daughters how to cook and have dinner started each day so she could finish preparing the meal upon arriving home from work. The family always had dinner together, and her children greatly respected her.
Most summers, the family spent camping near Rich’s worksites, where he helped build energy towers. In time, they permanently placed a trailer at Big Ben Park in Newaygo, where the family created many special memories. The trailer became a special place for grandchildren to spend time. Lea treasured the gift of being a grandmother and went out of her way to spoil her grandchildren. She planned arts and crafts projects, took them rock hunting and yard sales, and went on sweet trips for Pine Cone Ice Cream. When she hosted sleepovers, she let the kids personalize the room they stayed in with decorations of their choice.
In quieter times, Lea was an avid reader of Fern Michaels’ romance/thriller novels, making ceramics, and gardening. She had a green thumb and loved tending her plants and watching them flourish. Just prior to the pandemic, as her health declined and she needed more care, Lea moved to an assisted living facility. A short time later, Rich joined her, and they shared the rest of their 69-years together, there.
As we gather to celebrate Lea’s life, may we find much comfort in our many treasured memories. May we also find comfort in carrying her legacy of unwavering love, generosity, and care forward.
Leatrice “Lea” Lu Burke, age 87, of Grand Rapids, passed away on September 13, 2023. She is survived by her children Sheree Tatar, Rick & Cindy Burke, Marjorie & Mark Swenson; grandchildren Sherice Tatar, Jill (Matt) Boisonault, Jennifer (Matt) Fullmer, Rick (Nicole) Burke, Josh Burke, Kelley Blik, Steven Fischer, Justin Sivens, Brandon (Carly) Burke, AJ (Becca) Burke; many great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren. Also surviving are her sisters and brothers, Ethel Niewadomski, Henry Mercer, Clifford Mercer, and Eunice Phillips. Lea was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Burke; daughter and son-in-law, Colleen & Dennis Bacca; sisters and brothers, Ellen Higbee, William Mercer, Walter Mercer, and Ralph Mercer.
The service to remember and celebrate her life will be held on Friday, September 29, 2023, at 11 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Drive NW. Friends are invited to visit with her family at the funeral home on Thursday from 6-8 PM and on Friday at the funeral home beginning at 10 AM. For those who wish, memorial contributions to Mackenzie’s Animal Sanctuary are appreciated. To read more about Lea’s life, to share a memory or photo, or to sign her guestbook, visit www.heritagelifestory.com