Quentin Burke, publisher, journalist, photographer, entrepreneur and world traveler, died at his home in Holtville on Saturday, February 11. Although the immediate cause of death was not known, he had been struggling with a cardiac condition for many years.
Mr. Burke was the editor and publisher of the Holtville Tribune and owner of its associated printing business for 26 years from 1964 to 1990. During his tenure, the Tribune was honored five times by the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. In addition, he ran the Quellen Company, which specialized in book publishing and photography-related projects.
Quentin Burke was born June 7, 1928, in Sydney, Australia, to Keast and Iris Burke. He was educated at local schools including Sydney’s Church of England Grammar School. A strong student, he earned his undergraduate degree from University of Sydney (B.A. in Philosophy and Educational Psychology) in 1949 at the age of 18, when most of his peers were just finishing secondary school. His diverse work experience in Australia included stints as railroad car janitor, “printer’s devil,” and assistant editor of a pharmaceutical trade magazine. He also found time for outdoor activities, including orienteering and spelunking, and in one famous incident, an extra-legal traversal of the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
In 1951, he left Australia for seven years of travel and work abroad. He began as a galley boy on the tramp steamer S. S. Katrina, which carried him through the Pacific and to ports throughout Europe. After living, working and studying in England for part of 1952, he traveled to Scandinavia and Iceland, working at a variety of occupations including wine cellarman at the Stockholm Sweden Hotel. In 1954, Mr. Burke emigrated to Canada, and held a variety of jobs in the newspaper and publishing industries. Travel and outdoor activities remained his passions, including hiking, canoeing and skiing, and he spent most of 1955 on a trek through South and Central America, going overland as far as Buenos Aires.
Mr. Burke wed Ellen Isabelle Ingham on May 25, 1957 in Toronto. His bride shared his love of adventure: in 1958, the couple embarked on a seven-month trip from Toronto to Australia, traveling most of the distance in a modified Volkswagen Beetle. Embarking at Wales, the couple traveled through England and Scandinavia, traversed the European mainland, and drove on through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, a voyage unthinkable in today’s more turbulent political climate. They traveled by boat across the Bay of Bengal to Penang, Malaysia and then from Singapore to Perth, Australia. From there, they continued across the Nullabor Plain to Melbourne, celebrating Christmas with family there in 1958.
On his return to Australia, Mr. Burke worked as a journalist for TV Times magazine. His daughter Victoria was born in Brisbane, Australia in March 1961. The Burke family emigrated to the United States in 1963, arriving on the S. S. Mariposa at San Francisco, California. While working as a proofreader for the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle, Mr. Burke continued to contribute freelance journalism to the TV Times, including interviews with Bob Hope, Walt Disney, Laurence Welk and Mister Ed the talking horse, among others. His son Robin was born in March 1964 in San Francisco.
Late in 1964, the Burkes purchased the Holtville Tribune and its associated printing business. In an operation that had only a handful of employees, Mr. Burke wore many different hats: journalist, photographer, editor, publisher, darkroom technician, graphic designer, and salesman, not to mention handyman and janitor. Computer repairman was added to the list when the Tribune became an early adopter of computerized typesetting, the forerunner of today’s desktop publishing.
In addition to producing its weekly newspaper, Mr. Burke served Holtville in many civic capacities. He advised the Holtville High Saga school newspaper and served on the Imperial County Vocational Committee for the Graphic Arts. He was also a long-time member of Holtville’s Planning Commission. His position as local journalist meant that he was witness to much of Holtville’s public life: he once said that he had “attended more City Council meetings than any mayor, and watched more Holtville High football games than any coach.” Given their travels, it is not surprising that both Quentin and Ellen Burke were very active in the American Field Service foreign exchange program, serving as area representatives for the Imperial Valley region.
An avid outdoorsman, Mr. Burke enjoyed backpacking and hiking throughout his life, especially in the southwest. One highlight was a raft trip down the Colorado River in 1968. He was an active member of the Natural Arch and Bridge Society, and a frequent participant in bridge hunting trips in Arizona and southern Utah.
His interest in photography was life-long, but took off particularly when he became an enthusiast for 3-D (stereo) photography. He invented a folding mount for holding stereo photos: the Q-Vu, and ran a small business selling mounts and other stereo photo equipment. His stereo photos, especially of the desert southwest, won awards at annual conventions of the National Stereoscopic Association. His photographic work was also displayed at the Imperial Valley Pioneer Museum.
Mr. Burke was a publisher for several reprinted books, including The Jeep Bible by Granville King and a special edition of The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright. He worked to keep the Wright legacy alive in the Valley, founding and running the Harold Bell Wright Society.
Mr. Burke is survived by his sister Sandra Pigott of West Australia, and brothers Kerras Burke of Melbourne, Australia, and Julian Burke of Sydney, Australia, and by his wife Ellen of Holtville, and children Robin Burke and his wife Roshanna Sylvester of Evanston, Illinois, and Victoria Burke and her husband Paul Raymont of Toronto, Canada. There are two grandchildren, Ian Burke and Lily Sylvester, both of Evanston.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, February 18 at 11:00 am at St. Peter and Paul’s Episcopal Church in El Centro.