Barry R. Burk, a retired supervisor with the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission who counseled and educated people with HIV and AIDS for more than two decades, died Oct. 5 in Mercy St. Anne Hospital. He was 67.
Mr. Burk of West Toledo died after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer, said Sue Carter, who met him through his volunteer work at the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio.
Mr. Burk, who had been HIV-positive since 1992, was an advocate for people with HIV and AIDS and was active in support groups for people with the disease.
Ms. Carter, a social worker at the Ryan White Program at UTMC, said he was very effective counseling others because he was comfortable telling people he was gay and had the virus that causes AIDS.
“He was a remarkable man who had many friends. He touched a lot of people’s lives,” she said. “He told people that it is OK to be HIV-positive and encouraged them to deal with it in a healthy way.”
Among the tasks of Mr. Burk’s volunteer work at the UTMC HIV clinic was counseling people after they were tested to determine if they had the virus. “He wanted other people to deal with HIV as well,” she said.
Mr. Burk had been a teacher at Continental Local Schools in Putnam County, and later, a job placement specialist at the Toledo Society for the Blind. He retired in 2003 from the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, where he was a placement specialist and supervisor. “He really enjoyed teaching. I think Barry’s whole purpose in life was to try and help educate people in whatever field he was working at the time,” said John Enright, a neighbor of Mr. Burk and close friend.
Mr. Burk participated in a 550-mile bicycle trek in 2003 to bring attention to HIV and AIDS. “That definitely was a highlight of his life,” Mr. Enright said, adding that he raised more than $4,000 in the Twin Cities to Chicago Heartland AIDS Ride, which spanned six days and took riders, including many like Mr. Burk with HIV, from St. Paul to Chicago. “Barry was very open. You know a lot of people don’t want to talk about anything. Barry was very open in how hard it was being gay, from social obligations to his personal family,” Mr. Enright said.
Mr. Burk was a member of the Ryan White Advisory Board. He was on the board of David’s House of Compassion from 2003 to 2004.
He grew up in Leipsic, Ohio. He graduated with a degree in education from Ohio Northern University and earned a master’s in counseling from Bowling Green State University.
Surviving are his mother, Ethyl Burk, and brother, Craig Burk. His father, Harold, predeceased him.
A celebration of life will be at 4 p.m. Sunday in St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1201 Madison Ave.
The family suggests tributes to the University of Toledo Hope Chest Fund or the Ann Wayson Locher Fund, in care of the UT Foundation.
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.
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