The News Courier in Athens, Alabama


August 17, 2013

Harlan Burke

— Harlan Duane Burke, 83, died Friday, Aug. 16, 2013.

He was born to the late Percy and Winnie Burke in Plain, Miss., on Sept. 10, 1929. Harlan graduated from Slidell High School in Louisiana and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Mississippi College in 1949.

After graduation, Harlan taught at Pearl High School and later became a radar instructor at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. In 1957, hearing about an exciting new space program in Huntsville, Harlan and his family moved to Athens where he began working at Marshall Space Flight Center.

He later joined NASA when it was established in 1960. Harlan worked in the Astrionics Lab where he was involved in the Mercury/Redstone program, the Explorer 1 program, the Saturn program, and in Skylab. He was an instrumentation specialist and was division chief of the Communications and Tracking Division. He worked for NASA for 30 years, then worked at Boeing for five years before retiring in 1988.

His brother Kenneth Burke preceded him in death.

Harlan is survived by his wife of 63 years, Dorothy Finch Burke; and two daughters, Dr. Lynda Louise Burke Hon and husband Dr. Jeremy Hon, and Patsy Diane Burke VanKirk and husband George VanKirk.

He is survived by grandchildren, Dr. Emily Hon Castellanos  and husband Dr. Jason Castellanos, Kevin Hon, Jason Hon, Melissa VanKirk Pouncey and husband Adam Pouncey, George VanKirk, and Rachel VanKirk. He has two great-grandchildren, Iris Castellanos and Calvin Pouncey.

He loved God, his family, gardening, and cowboy westerns. He served the Lord faithfully for more than 60 years and was a member of Willowbrook Baptist Church.

Visitation is from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 18 at, Laughlin Service Funeral Home, 2320 Bob Wallace Ave. in Huntsville. The funeral service will immediately follow at 3:30 p.m.  Burial will be in Maple Hill Cemetery. 

Sign the online guestbook at

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