Eugene P. Burke Sr., one of the pioneers in the reverse mortgage industry, died in his Fox Chapel home Thursday of cancer. He was 77.
Mr. Burke founded All-Pennsylvania Reverse Mortgage in 1997 as an offshoot of his commercial real estate business. Reverse mortgages allow home-owners 62 and older to take advantage of the equity they have built up in their homes without having to sell their property.
Patrick Burke of Fox Chapel, one of Mr. Burke's five sons, said his father became interested in the business after seeing elderly people struggle because of unexpected or overwhelming expenses and limited savings. What some of them did have was equity in their homes.
"Their wealth was tied up in the house and the only way to get at it was to sell the house," Patrick Burke said.
His father studied the issue with the late U.S. Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., having served as Republican Party committeeman for Fox Chapel and worked on Heinz's congressional and senatorial campaigns, said his son, Kevin, of Fox Chapel. Heinz introduced legislation in the 1980s that, when enacted, changed federal mortgage laws to permit reverse mortgages.
Mr. Burke came to the business in a roundabout way.
After graduating from Upper Darby High School near Philadelphia in 1952, he attended Carnegie Institute of Technology, earning a degree in printing management. Upon graduating in 1956, Mr. Burke joined Taylor Publishing Co., a high school and college yearbook publisher, as a regional account manager. When Balfour acquired Taylor three years later, Mr. Burke stayed with the new owner, selling class rings as well as yearbooks.
In 1972, he founded Recognition Services, which sold class rings, trophies, plaques and related products.
Meanwhile, Mr. Burke pursued a second career in real estate, a business that fascinated his father, Patrick Burke said. He said his father obtained a real estate sales license and later a broker's license, opening a commercial real estate firm in Hampton.
In 1992, Mr. Burke was named manager of the Pittsburgh office of Atlanta-based Reverse Mortgage. He launched All-Pennsylvania five years later. The company also had an office in the Philadelphia area and an affiliate near Scranton.
"He intentionally kept it a small, boutique firm," Patrick Burke said.
All-Pennsylvania closed last year, partly because of Mr. Burke's illness and partly because larger, national firms were dominating the business, Kevin Burke said.
"He just felt it was time to enjoy life," Kevin Burke said.
Mr. Burke was married for 53 years to the late Janet Marie Burke, who died in 2009.
In addition to his sons Patrick and Kevin, Mr. Burke is survived by three other sons, Chris of Los Angeles, James of Port Neches, Texas, and Eugene of Cranberry; nine grandchildren; brothers Thomas of Boca Raton, Fla,. and Joseph of Philadelphia; and sisters Margaret Curley of Philadelphia and Barbara Ankrom of Clarksville, Pa.
Family and friends can call at Weddell-Ajak Funeral Home, 100 Center Ave., Aspinwall, Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. A funeral mass will be at 10 a.m. Tuesday at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, 2510 Middle Road, Hampton. Burial will follow at Assumption Cemetery in Hampton.
Len Boselovic: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1941.