Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., joined nearly 100 staffers and a few journalists outside the Rayburn House Office Building Thursday to honor Connolly's late communications director, George Burke.
Burke, who had had known Connolly for 30 years and whom the lawmaker regarded as a close friend, passed away on Oct. 30 at the age of 64 after battling cancer. "He leaves a big hole in our operation and our family," Connolly told the group gathered in the Rayburn horseshoe entrance on the warm afternoon. Burke first came to the Hill as a staffer in 1979 and after leaving the Capitol, he returned to Congress when Connolly was elected in 2009.
Connolly recalled Burke's passion for politics and his love for "the little things in life." He also referenced "getting in the Burke zone," when Burke was known to mentor a young staffer and tell him or her about the good old days.
Burke's effect on young Hill staffers was evident Thursday with the youthful faces gathered outside of Rayburn. One of his charges, Hannah Kim, who works as a press secretary for Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., organized the Thursday remembrance.
"George was like our Dean of House Democratic Press Secretaries and a staunch supporter of [Democratic Communications Network]," Kim wrote in an email inviting staffers and members to the event. "He truly was a great mentor and dear friend to so many of us on the Hill."
Burke was also a force in Northern Virginia Democratic politics and chaired the 11th Congressional District Democratic Committee at the time of his death. Former Rep. James P. Moran, D-Va., who was also on hand at the remembrance, told the group, "George Burke loved politics because he loved people."