Ann Williams Burke, 95
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CAPE ELIZABETH -- Ann Williams Burke, 95, passed away on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, at her home.
'Annie B' - as her customers lovingly called the Cape Cottage Branch, Shore Road Post Office worker for almost 70 years - was much more than simply the branch contractor to the thousands who came to buy stamps and mail packages. She was a caring and talented friend who also helped her customer- friends find jobs and a place to live or locate missing pets. Although small in stature, Annie B had a big heart and was a giant in helping others all her life.
Born in Lewiston on Sept. 15, 1917, Ann was the daughter of Charles and Nazira Hasham, who originally came from Akoura, Lebanon. She graduated from Biddeford High School in the class of 1937.
Before becoming a postal worker in Cape Elizabeth, she pursued several other career paths. She trained in nursing for three years at a hospital in Biddeford. She held the record for the fastest typing speed in Maine during her Gray Business School training. She modeled gloves at Youland Department Store in Biddeford and modeled the first rubber bathing suit shown in Maine by diving off the Old Orchard Pier. She was awarded a scholarship to Fanny Farmer Cooking School through Central Maine Power Company by demonstrating the use of the electric stove. She also trained to be a welder at the South Portland Shipyard.
Over the years Ann performed many roles from her tiny, cluttered post office. Her customers left her the keys to their homes when they went on vacation. When parents had to do errands, she notified their children coming home from school where their parents were. She helped people from all over the world collect stamps and was interviewed for a documentary on Joan Benoit, for whom she saved stamps over the years from the time Benoit first began collecting stamps.
Her most difficult role though, was handing over the packages of personal effects to the families of soldiers killed during World War
Ann Williams Burke
II. For this sad duty she kept a special chair and tea in the back room where she could comfort the families in private. She used this back room and special chairmany times during her long tenure to listen to the various heart-breaking stories of her dear customer- friends.
Besides wearing many hats as a postal worker Ann was widely known for her love of music. She played the harmonica and piano by ear and loved to harmonize. She grew up during the swing era and danced the night away at many live big band performances around Southern Maine. During a short stay at the South Portland Nursing Home, Ann was recruited to play the harmonica at breakfast and for birthday celebrations.
She was a superb gardener and specialized in roses. Ann was also an excellent cook and had many requests to share her recipes.
By far the most important part of Ann's life was her loving family. She raised two children, Carol Williams Brown of South Portland, and Philip E. Burke of Cape Elizabeth. She married Wallace Burke in 1965 and spent the next 48 years sharing her love of life and her family with him. For many years she tried to locate a lost brother, George Hasham, and finally was happily reunited with him when she was in her 60s.
Ann is survived by her husband; her two children; and her two granddaughters, Carey Brown Gafur and her husband Mark of Norfolk, Mass., and Jody Brown Ethell and her husband John of Camarillo, Calif. In the last few years of her life, Burke enjoyed spending time with her three great-grandsons Spenser, Quinn and Greyson Gafur and great-granddaughter Hayden Ethell.
Ann's family will forever be grateful to Eileen Morehead for bringing laughter and spiritual reinforcement to Ann's last few months.
There will be no calling hours. Services will be held privately for the family. Arrangements are under the care of Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Rd., South Portland.
Published in Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on May 2, 2013