Chanceford Twp. gravedigger 'loved helping people'

Christopher Dornblaser
  • Reynold Burke, 79, died last week after a garage fire.
  • Burke was remembered as someone who "loved helping people."
  • He was a gravedigger, excavator, Sunday school teacher and even an auctioneer.

Reynold Burke was a man of many titles.

During his life, he took on different roles, such as excavator, auctioneer, tinkerer, Sunday school teacher and even gravedigger.

Burke, 79, of Chanceford Township, died March 13 after a fire in his garage. York County Coroner Pam Gay said his cause of death was thermal injuries, with the manner accidental.

Reynold Burke

A week after his death, Roxann Burke, Reynold Burke's daughter, remembered her father, who she said was well known in the southern York County area.

“He liked to help anybody and everybody," she said.

Reynold Burke's Obituary on York Daily Record & York Dispatch

Gravedigging: Roxann Burke, also of Chanceford Township, said her father was a gravedigger, just like his father and grandfather before him. She said he would use his backhoe to dig out graves.

She estimated her father had dug thousands of graves at dozens of cemeteries.

“He dug over 6,300 graves in southern York County for approximately 49 cemeteries," Roxann Burke said Tuesday.

He was still digging graves up until his death, she said. Reynold Burke was approaching nearly 60 years in the gravedigging business, his daughter said.

He started on Aug. 7, 1957.

During his busiest year, she said he had done 130 graves.

"That was at least 10-12 graves a month," she said.

In addition to gravedigging, he also did excavation. He was self-employed in both lines of work.

Reynold Burke working in 1984. Burke died after a garage fire last week. Photo courtesy Roxann Burke.

Tinkerer: Reynold Burke's daughter also remembered her father as a "tinkerer." She said he was always in his garage building new things that he would find online.

He would watch videos on YouTube that would show him how to build things. Roxann Burke recalled her father making things such as a hairbrush handle for his wife, or a leaf-blower attachment for his lawnmower.

George Geesey, of Windsor Township, a friend of Reynold Burke, said when Burke found out about YouTube, "he just kind of went crazy."

“He’d just see these things, he’d have to make it," Geesey said.

The last thing Burke was working on before his death was a woodsplitter to put on his backhoe.

Roxann Burke said Reynold Burke loved to check Craigslist to see what kind of things he could buy to tinker with.

She said it wasn't unusual for people to stop by and ask for help.

"If I come home on vacation, it was nothing for two to three people to stop in," she said.

Geesey said Reynold Burke would fix his friends and neighbor's lawnmowers or other equipment.

“If somebody needed something fixed, he was going to do it," he said.

He knew a lot of people, and Roxann Burke said any time they would go to the grocery store, he would run into people he knew.

“I don't know anybody that didn’t like my father," she said.

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Other titles: Roxann Burke said her father was a very religious man.

“He loved the lord, and he talked to anybody he could about Jesus, about being saved,” she said, adding that it "kept him grounded."

Reynold Burke was a Sunday school teacher for Bethlehem Stonepile Church in Red Lion, where he was a member for 59 years. He also was a member of Red Lion Bible Church for the last 20 years.

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Additionally, Burke was an auctioneer. His daughter said he had done about 250 public sales in the area in his life.

“He was quite busy in his heyday,” she said.

Reynold Burke while working at an auction. Burke died after a garage fire last week. Photo courtesy Roxann Burke.

Remembering Reynold: Reynold Burke was a hard worker, his daughter said.

She said he had triple-bypass surgery in the 1980s and another bypass surgery in 2003.

“He came through with flying colors," she said.

Roxann Burke recalled her father's personality, saying she never saw him upset.

"He never swore, never drank, never smoked," she said.

She said her father would help anybody, calling him "one of a kind."

Geesey shared similar thoughts.

“He loved helping people, that was a key to him," he said.  "Especially when it came to working on equipment."

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.