Peter J. Burke Jr., 69, of Brigantine, N.J., a businessman and former vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority, died Friday, April 18, of a lung infection at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Pomona, N.J.
Mr. Burke was executive director of Brandell Estates Assisted Living in Linwood, N.J. He was cofounder of Brandywine Senior Living Inc., based in Medford, which operates 24 facilities in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and Connecticut. He served as treasurer and vice president of development and reimbursement policy at Brandywine.
For the last 15 years, Mr. Burke also served as treasurer on the board of trustees of LEAP Academy University Charter School in Camden. An education advocate, he was committed to Camden and "trying to make it a better place," said his son, Peter III.
From 1990 to 1996, Mr. Burke, a Democrat, was vice chairman of the DRPA. He served during a tumultuous time when the bistate agency was plagued by widespread patronage and political bickering.
When a political power play in 1994 - pitting Gov. Christie Whitman, a Republican, against U.S. Rep. Robert E. Andrews, a Democrat, and Democratic leader George E. Norcross III, now a co-owner of The Inquirer - delayed a critical vote on a key appointment and other business, Mr. Burke spoke out in frustration after trying to broker a resolution. "This is an embarrassment to New Jersey," he said.
A certified public accountant, Mr. Burke was a senior adviser for U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley's 2000 presidential campaign. He also served as campaign treasurer for Bradley's three Senate elections.
Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Burke graduated from West Catholic High in 1963. He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from what is now Philadelphia University in 1970 and later obtained a master's degree in liberal studies from Villanova University. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War and was stationed in Germany, where he worked as a medic.
As a youngster, Mr. Burke spent summers at the Jersey Shore with his family and worked as a lifeguard in Brigantine. In August 1964, Mr. Burke and three other lifeguards were credited with rescuing more than a dozen people from the Atlantic Ocean and were honored by the local government.
"He was proud of the rescue story," said his son. "All of these kids were getting swept out into the ocean. They were able to save every kid."
He began his career at what is now PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he spent eight years in the audit and tax departments. He later was chief financial officer of National Property Analysts, a real estate management company.
Mr. Burke was one of the seven original members appointed to the Pinelands Commission in 1979 by Gov. Brendan T. Byrne. He served until 1982. He was also acting chairman of the New Jersey Health Care Association and past president of the Forest Hills Civic Association.
"He felt real strongly about the environment and the Pinelands," his son said. "He had a very strong sense of civic pride and responsibility."
He was a member of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Brigantine.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his companion, Alice Byrne; daughters Heather Matuszewski, Megan Matro, Colleen Allison, and Erin Hovey; his former wife, Eileen Burke; two sisters; a brother; and 15 grandchildren.
A Memorial Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 22, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 311 S. Eighth St., Brigantine. The family will receive mourners from 9 to 11 a.m. Interment will be private.
Donations may be made to LEAP Academy University Charter School, 538 Cooper St., Camden, N.J. 08102.