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Legendary New York Irish banker Bill Burke passes

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Throw a stone in Manhattan and chances are you will hit an Irish business that Bill Burke helped finance and set up. He was that legendary old-style banker, one who did deals on trust and his intimate knowledge of the community he served for decades.

A Bill Burke handshake was as good as a signed contract. Thousands of small business owners over the years have come to know him as a banker, but also a friend. “If Bill Burke didn’t exist we’d have to invent him,” said one community leader.

So how did a rural Irish emigrant president of a bank and a leader of his community, including becoming grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1988 end up such a success?

The story begins in 1942. Burke was born in Tubbercurry, a small town in County Sligo. He was one of 11 children.

When he turned 18 he felt there was very little future for him in Ireland. His father encouraged him to join the family garage business, but this didn’t interest Burke so he boarded a plane for JFK and the Big Apple.

“As soon as I got the Leaving Certificate (high school graduation exam), I was out of there,” he remembered in a 2007 interview with the Irish Voice.

A few days off the boat and Burke was with his brother-in-law in a Chinese laundry when the clerk in the store asked him where he was........

© IrishCentral