I only met George Burke once, but once was enough.
George Burke was communications director for Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) until his untimely death on Oct. 30. My encounter with George was just a few weeks before, during my last visit to Capitol Hill to interview Connolly. George sat in on the interview, and took a few photos for both his office and me, managing to make me look decent with just my iPhone.
After the interview, as George walked me out of the office, I thanked him for always being responsive and helpful in getting his boss on the air with us, or getting us statements, or whatever we needed. Not every office on the Hill works like that, I told him, and I wanted him to know we all appreciated it.
He told me he knew what our work was like, being a reformed journalist himself; and we chatted briefly about George’s past as a reporter and photographer. As soon as I mentioned that I was a presidential campaign nerd, he cracked a big grin, and started telling me stories about covering, and shooting, some future presidents and also-rans in his adopted then-home of New Hampshire. I pushed another button of his by telling him about my love for that state, and before I knew it, I’d heard an hour’s worth of stories about the state, his experiences covering it and his passion for both.
I like to think I’ve been in this job long enough to know a fish story when I hear one, and I heard no fish stories that day. The smiles those stories generated stuck with me for the rest of the day, and I looked forward to my next encounter with this person that had walked in my shoes, and loved to share his life. I looked forward to the next time I would visit, wondering if there were more stories to hear or if I’d heard them all. I bet on the former rather than the latter.
Sadly, there will be no next time for me. Meeting him once, though, was enough to generate a twinge of melancholy upon learning of George’s death Saturday. I imagine that sentiment is just one drop in the ocean of sadness his family, friends, political allies, and colleagues on the Hill must still be feeling. I hope they are comforted by the great work that he did for the people, causes, and passions he cared about.