Michael loved life and lived it to the fullest. He did more in his short 27 years than most do in a full lifetime. He will be missed terribly by all those whose lives he touched.

Memories of Michael

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From: Heidi Peters (2005)

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Burke:

I am so sorry for your loss. I wanted to send you a letter to tell you how blessed I feel to have known Michael. He was the most decent, high-spirited human being I've ever known. I have so many fond memories of Michael from the past eight years that I thought I'd share a few.

Michael was definitely a major influence through my years at University of Iowa. We first met in Spanish class when I was a freshman in 1997. "Miguel Tomas" was bright, entertaining, and so handsome; it was hard not to notice him. He was so friendly and could strike up a conversation with anyone. I was lucky enough to go on a few dates with Michael, but it was obvious we were meant to be friends.

Michael was so smart and academically responsible. After sharing Spanish classes, I'd always see him in the Seaman's Center of Engineering studying or organizing some kind of group. I remember when he modestly showed me his picture and quote in the University of Iowa/ Iowa State engineering magazine. I'm sure the engineering department used the piece for recruiting, and what better person could you have as the perfect model student, representing the college of engineering? He was always volunteering his time and services to the college, giving speeches to high schoolers on behalf of the school, and anything related to industrial engineering. Michael was respected by so many people in so many different groups and was a true role model.

I visited Michael in Chicago awhile back. I hadn't seen him for months, and he was leaving out of town the next morning. His bags were packed and ready to go for an early departure. I'm sure he had a million of errands and details to figure out, yet he still managed to carve out some time for a friend with a moment's notice. We went to a Tapas restaurant in Lincoln Park. We were drinking sangria and snacking on appetizers outside in the warm summer night, reminiscing about our past Spanish days and our mutual studies abroad to Madrid Spain. It was -and still is- my most favorite memory of Chicago and of Michael.

I never met either of you, but saw you after Michael's memorable performance in "She Loves Me." He had such talent! (I went to his Newman Singers concerts and was so proud when he'd have solos and his gorgeous voice filled the church.) But what I remember most from that night at "She Loves Me" is watching you all in that small, crowded hallway adjacent to the North Hall theater, congratulating the star. It was quite the ideal picture, and it was clear that Michael was blessed to have such a close, loving family that supported him.

When I heard the tragic news from a fellow Hawkeye alum today, I took a long lunch and went to grieve and spend time with my mom. She had met Michael only once, after one of my Pippin musical performances that Michael and his roommate attended. He was "one of her favorites." She immediately opened a file on her computer under my name entitled "Michael T. Burke" and found the enclosed photos. I'm sure you aren't surprised to hear that a stranger who met Michael just once was touched by his presence, enough to create a file on her computer… but thought you may need to hear it again. Michael was one of a kind and will never be forgotten. I said to my mom, "Why is it that the most decent wonderful human beings are the ones that are taken early and die young?" Her response: "Maybe he finished what he was here on Earth to do, what he was meant to do… Maybe the rest of us still have work to do."

My deepest sympathy for your loss. It's never easy when you lose someone so senselessly and unexpected. May it help to know how many people share your sorrow.

Heidi Peters
(formerly Heidi Arkebauer)

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth, you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
~Kahlil Gibran

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