Our hearts are broken. One of our own, our salesperson extraordinaire, Dan Burke, passed away unexpectedly in early December 2020. Those of you who read retrofit may not have had the pleasure of knowing Dan, so I’d like to take a moment to reminisce about this one-of-a-kind man.
Dan joined our team in 2007. We weren’t the retrofit team then; we were the eco-structure and metalmag team, magazines created by our publisher, John Riester, in the early 2000s. Dan’s easygoing personality quickly established him within our small group and he became a valuable—and valued—member. Eventually, we all briefly went our separate ways until the entire band got back together for retrofit. And that’s when the real fun started.
Dan was a New Jersey native with a charming personality, a dapper style and a booming laugh. He had a big heart. Dan loved fiercely and shared his feelings openly. He also was a good listener and would remember things you told him years later. He adored music and played trumpet in a band for years. He was a New York Giants fan, and Monday morning conference calls in the fall typically began with a rundown of the Giants performance over the weekend. Dan enjoyed a good vodka at the end of a hard day and relaxing in front of a dramatic television series.
Nobody could work a trade show like Dan. Sometimes we’d crisscross the show as a team; other times we’d split up. When we’d regroup at the end of the day, my mind would be blown by the stack of cards Dan would have from people whose hands he’d shaken that day. Dan loved to bring in new business and was what John calls “a phone banger,” making tons of phone calls (and sending umpteen emails) each day, seeking the ad dollars we need to keep retrofit thriving. Dan’s work ethic was an integral part of retrofit’s success. And with Dan’s successes came certain catchphrases that will stick with me forever: “Oh, no way! Get out!” and “Thank you, sweet baby Jesus!” were often exclaimed in his Jersey accent along with his boisterous laugh. (Dan’s name will continue to appear on our masthead this year as a tribute.)
Dan had a fear of cats. I have cats and it tickled my funny bone that a big man like Dan could be fearful of such sweet little creatures. Dan once stayed in my condo in Chicago during a trade show. Before he closed the guestroom door at the end of the night, he had to make sure I had both my cats. He was convinced a cat would smother him in his sleep!
One of my favorite Dan stories happened during A’18 in New York City. Dan and our publisher John shared a hotel room and Dan woke up in the middle of the night roaring like a bear because of a wild dream. John, who is 6-foot, 4-inches tall, flew out of bed in fear and slammed into the wall of the tiny room. Dan and John had me crying with laughter when they shared the story the next morning.
Dan experienced a lot of challenges and tragedies. A lesser person would’ve folded, but not Dan. He always had a smile on his face. He always was eager to contribute to our team. He always wanted to make sure those around him were OK. His beautiful spirit helped him triumph over adversity.
Our retrofit team is small. I always have felt extremely fortunate to not only do a job I love, but to work with people who have become members of my family. However, that makes this loss particularly difficult. Our retrofit team will reminisce about Dan, especially when we are together, and there will be tears. But there also will be tons of laughter because Dan brought so much joy to us over the years. One of these days, when we can travel again—doing what Dan loved—there will be a vodka at the end of the day at the seat where Dan should be.
We love you, brother!