Michael Cleary Burkey

August 4, 1946 ~ September 8, 2021 (age 75)


Michael Cleary Burkey

August 4, 1946 – September 8, 2021.

Born in Tacoma, the son of Louis and Theresa Burkey, Mike was the second oldest of seven children and one of a large family of loving grandparents, aunts and uncles and eventually 41 first cousins.  Mike attended Holy Cross and St. Patrick’s grade schools, graduated from Stadium High School and lived all of his life in the area.

His early years centered around family and friends, Nanny and Boppy’s house on Sundays, and every summer at the beach house. There, he was the quintessential ‘King of the Raft,’ and taught everyone to ski, whether you wanted to or not. Rescuing Nanny when she fell overboard was a favorite story, for which he was rewarded his very own ‘Nanny Cake’! Remembering hunting and fishing outings with Boppy and cousins brought a twinkle to his eye. Mike shined around gatherings of friends, family and mom’s potato salad.   

Mike served in the U.S. Army Reserve at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Among other jobs, Mike was a professional painter with Real-Fine Painting Company in Tacoma but eventually pursued a career with his true passion, real-fine cooking.  His specialty was barbecue. For a time, he co-owned and operated Rib Ticklers restaurant in Gig Harbor. He competed in barbeque competitions around the country and was proud that his Rib Ticklers Turbo sauce won a prestigious Kansas City competition.  

After meeting and marrying Shannon Askew, they opened Burkey’s Better Barbecue in Ventura, California, where the menu boasted favorite Cleary family recipes. He loved analyzing the merits of a good brisket, perfecting his dishes, (and yours :) and cooking for large events. Mike and Shannon returned to the Northwest where he was truly at home- alongside a smoker and a cast iron pan.

Mike could carry a tune and found a reason to sing almost every day. He was a master of the play-on-words and appreciated a quick wit and a good joke. A teddy-bear of a guy, he rolled with a tight group of creative, lifelong friends -some past, but always present-to whom he is affectionately known as “Beef” and “Big Mike.” Please know that you were the source of much inspiration and joy for him throughout his life. 

Mike was happiest when with his wife, Shannon. After her death, he spent the last couple years at Stafford Skilled Nursing Facility in Port Orchard, Washington. While there, Mike and friend Bob enjoyed tending their prolific garden of peppers, eggplants and cucumbers. He was especially proud of the golden cherry tomatoes that ‘tasted like candy’ and a colorful heirloom rose that pleased him so. We thank the staff at Stafford for taking good care of him as part of his extended family.

Mike was preceded in death by his wife, Shannon Askew, his parents, brother Patrick and sister in law, Judy. He is survived by his former wife, Barbara, daughter, Michelle Wells and grandchildren Michael (Jessica) and Alexandra, four great grandchildren, sisters Kathy (Penney) and Sherry (Bill), brothers Greg (Sheldon) and Mark (Stacy), and sister Milissa (Jeff) and many nieces, nephews and cousins, whom he loved.

Please join us for a celebration of Mike’s life on Saturday, October 30, 2021, 1pm-5pm at Burley Creek Nursery, 12990 Bethel Burley Rd SE, Port Orchard, WA 98367.  We love you, Phil!

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