Richard Burke, a retired real-estate developer who served for 14 years on the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions before his business was accused, in federal lawsuits, of race discrimination, died Monday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio in Perrysburg Township. He was 82.
His daughter, Diane Varner, said Mr. Burke died from cancer. She said he went to hospice in December but was home for about 10 days around the holidays before returning to the facility on Friday.
A resident of Sylvania Township, he began developing mobile-home parks and apartment complexes in the Toledo area in the 1950s or 1960s, and continued working in real-estate development until recently, his daughter said.
A 96-unit apartment complex for active older adults in Maumee’s Mapleview Woods, approved for constuction in 1988, was among Mr. Burke’s projects.
Mr. Burke was appointed in 1972 by then Mayor Harry Kessler to the plan commission, then a joint body of the city and Lucas County. He was reappointed several times to five-year terms on the commission, whose members elected him as vice chairman and then chairman.
But he came under fire in 1985 after his firm, Burke Enterprises, was accused in lawsuits of refusing to rent properties he owned to black people. He was asked by then-Mayor Donna Owens to resign from the city plan commission.
Mr. Burke denied the allegations, but stepped down from the plan commissions in January, 1986, shortly after settling out of court with the plaintiff in a housing-discrimination complaint.
Prior to joining the plan commissions, Mr. Burke was an officer with what is now the Home Builders Association of Greater Toledo. Before being named president, he served as the association’s secretary, treasurer, and vice president, and was active in the group’s legislative committee.
A native of Long Island, N.Y., he received a forestry degree from Michigan State University, then entered Officer Candidate School in the Navy, with which he served during the Korean War.
His survivors include his wife, Betty Burke, whom he met at Michigan State and married on June 10, 1953; daughters, Diane Varner and Jane Cermak, and three grandchildren.
Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday in the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Avenue, with recitation of the Rosary at 7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon Monday in Christ the King Church, Toledo.
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