Everyone in town knew him as Cubby, the man with the safety vest who propelled himself with his walker to the library, but his real name was John Norris Burke.
Cubby Burke, who died recently at the age of 96, was born in Montreal on May 14, 1920, part of that other baby boom, the one that followed the First World War. He went to Loyola High School and then Loyola College, but enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force before graduating.
During the war he was in Coastal Command patrolling the coast of England along with France, Spain and Portugal. He was a radio operator and tail gunner in a four engine B-24, a very dangerous place to be, with a survival rate of about 50%. Before deciding where to serve he flipped a coin with a friend who took the other assignment. That friend did not survive.
Mr. Burke took the Queen Mary, then a troopship, home in December of 1944. By chance he ran into his father at the train station and it was an emotional reunion. After the war Cubby returned to university, this time McGill, where he earned a degree in Commerce. A naturally friendly, outgoing man he worked in sales, mostly for pharmaceutical companies.
He looked as if he might stay a lifelong bachelor, but in 1975 he married Angeline Rose Roy.
“Norris and “grand-mere” enjoyed golf, cross-country skiing, and traveling. I can remember Norris recalling a golf trip the two took to California playing courses on Pebble Beach,” recalled Tom Hango, his stepgrandson who is a Vermont state trooper living close to the border.
After his wife died in 1995, Mr. Burke lived in Pointe-Claire for a few years before moving to Knowlton about a dozen years ago, in part to be close to his family in Vermont. He soon became a well-known figure about town. He was a voracious reader and a big user of the library. He was mentally sharp until his death in February.