In the beginning days of the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic, Omaha native Robert Burke, an employee of Ace Rent-to-Own in Nebraska for almost nine years, was among the first casualties of the virus that has now claimed more than 211,000 lives across the nation and more than one million lives worldwide.
Burke, 46, died April 18, after waging a valiant battle against the Covid infection.
Lyn Leach, President of Ace Furniture & TV Inc., dba Ace Rent-To-Own, considered his former employee a “dear member of the Ace family, who loved and was deeply loved by everyone, including his fellow employees and his loyal clients.”
“One of the most difficult things for all of us after he died was not being able to celebrate Robert’s life as we would normally do,” says Leach. “Because of the pandemic and restrictions on face-to-face meetings, his memorial service was off the table for almost six months, even though everyone who heard about Robert’s death immediately asked what they could do to help his family.”
Burke is survived by his widow Shawna Napier and their two young children, Liam, 10, and Violet, 7.
“Robert was truly a happy-go-lucky guy,” Napier says of her husband. “He was passionate about his job and his family – Liam and Violet meant everything to him. Robert was enthusiastic about the Minnesota Vikings, but the children were the biggest priority in his life.”
Napier added, “Robert was a great salesman and was passionate about being successful in his work. He loved that he could advance within Ace Rent-to-Own and was always proud of himself and the work he did. His illness and death came as a shock to us all.”
Recently Burke’s wife and children, his parents, his Ace Rent-to-Own “family” and his many other family members and friends finally had an opportunity to say good-bye and pay their last respects at a well-attended, upbeat celebration of his life and work.
Leach and several of Burke’s Ace Rent-to-Own colleagues shared heartfelt stories about him at the celebration, including describing his many positive attributes, his contributions to the Ace workplace, and what he had meant to them personally. After many rich, warm anecdotes were described, Burke’s father stood and spoke emotionally to the group: “I’ve had many jobs, but none like this. My son was lucky to have you in his life and you were lucky to have had him.”
Leach and Burke’s colleagues could not have agreed more.
“Losing Robert was the worst thing that has happened to our business during this pandemic,” Leach says. “His death has been a terrible tragedy, but our spirits were immediately lifted by the celebration of his life. Before the event concluded and we dispersed, one of his Ace colleagues said, “We need to give Robert a fitting send-off – one final round of applause. And that’s what we did. We all applauded his life and his lasting impacts on our own.”
To provide an opportunity for others to celebrate Burke’s life and support his family, the Robert Burke Memorial Fund has been established through the APRO Charitable Foundation. His widow Shawna Napier has not been able to return to her work as a daycare teacher at the center she had worked at for almost a decade since her husband became ill. She is now seeking other employment in the area.
Click here to make a contribution, all of which will go to Burke’s family. There is a space on the online form to write a personal message to Shawna, Liam and Violet if donors wish to do so. Those who desire their contribution to remain anonymous can indicate this in the “Recognition Name” field.
Contributions are deductible to the maximum extent permitted under current federal tax law.