Joanne (Joan) Yarnall Burke, community activist

September 6, 2019

Joanne (Joan) Mary Yarnall Burke, 89, of Bethany Beach passed away peacefully Sunday, Aug. 25 2019. Joanne was born July 6, 1930, to Jessie Abbott Yarnall and Francis deSales Yarnall in Cumberland, Md.

Joanne graduated from the Ursuline Academy in Cumberland in 1949. She worked at the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company from 1949-51 in both Cumberland and Washington, D.C. She was also employed with the Associated Press in Washington, D.C. In 1951 Joanne moved to Washington, D.C. where she met and married John Francis Burke. They lived in Washington until they moved to Chevy Chase, Md. in 1960. They were married for 68 years and raised five children. Upon retirement they chose to spend their remaining years in Bethany Beach where they had a second home, and enjoyed countless trips there to visit and host family and friends for over 45 years. 

Joanne was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother. She treasured her life on the Eastern Shore and had a deep appreciation and knowledge of music, politics and travel. She loved gatherings of family and friends, and especially enjoyed trading stories with her grandchildren and their friends. 

Over her lifetime, Joanne was a church volunteer and founding member of Christ the King in Silver Spring, Md., and a member of St. Ann’s Catholic Church in Bethany Beach. Joanne and John were both active in civil rights events, including bringing their children to the Poor Peoples March on Washington in 1968. She was a school volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda and Dunblane Elementary in Washington, D.C. Her other volunteer and community outreach included The House of Ruth (one of the founding members) and the mentoring program at Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View. She was also an active member of the Democratic Party. 

She is survived by her sisters, Jean Haas, Joyce Eisler (twin) and Kathryn Bray (Robin); brother Francis (Pat) Yarnall; sister-in-law Mary Burke Brown; brother-in-law Gerard Burke; and her children Ann Connor, Joan Rubertone (Mark), John (Julie), Martin (Kathleen), and Cecilia D’Orazio (Richard); and 14 grandchildren, Louis King (Asiah), Katherine O’Neill (Colin), Kevin Connor, Vincent and Cecelia Rubertone, John Burke (Laura), Bridget Burke Florsic (Filip), Martin, Katherine, and Colin Burke, Matthew, Elizabeth, Andrew, and Joseph D’Orazio; and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, John Francis Burke; her brother John (Jack) Yarnall; and sisters Patricia Yarnall and MaryAnne Bailey. 

A Mass will take place Thursday, Sept. 19, at noon, at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Kensington, Md. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Bethany Beach Police Department, Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, or the Sussex County EMS.    

Online condolences may be made by visiting

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter