THE TIES THAT BIND DAVID AND KAREN BURKE
Family is integral to the story of Burke’s Main Street Pharmacy — a Hilton Head Island mainstay — and to the life of co-owner David Burke and his wife, Karen.
David’s father started the family business in Rochester, New York. Today, the shop is run by David and his brother, Tim, who have worked side-by-side — “literally five feet apart,” David said — for 30 years. Other siblings also have joined them at the pharmacy, making it a true family affair, and helping the brothers form a close bond.
“We talk constantly, regularly, and after all these years we practically know each other’s thoughts,” said David of his relationship with Tim. “We can finish each other’s sentences.”
That’s a trait David also shares with wife Karen. It’s not the only thing they share: Both are passionate about community involvement. For example, David heads the board of directors at Hilton Head Hospital, and Karen, who does not work in the pharmacy, is a hospice volunteer. The couple met at Northeastern University in Boston, and over 33 years together have built a family based on faith, love and generosity.
“I was looking out the window and I saw this little blonde girl and the guy behind her was carrying a whole bunch of stuff and he had a lampshade on his head,” David said. “And I said, ‘Oh, I’ve got to meet them.’ And he turned out to be my father-in-law.”
Karen is one of eight children and David is one of seven, so when they married the couple expected to have a big family. Four or five children, David said. Karen politely corrected him. “Six,” she said. “Six was our number.”
WE DIDN'T GET TO SIX, BUT WE GOT TO FIVE.
— Karen Burke
But things did not work out as planned, leading to what David called difficult early years. “Seven years,” Karen said of the time they spent trying to conceive a child.
Their faith gave them solace.
“It was the path we had to walk down,” said Karen, a Christian since college. “The doctors would fix something and then something else would go wrong. It was becoming apparent that was the pattern. And then the five came. It was like God’s plan just unfolded after those seven years.”
“The five” are the couple’s five adopted children — something the couple had been hesitant to consider. David said that the idea of adopting originally gave him some pause. “I didn’t know anybody who was adopted. All of our friends were having children. Tim and his wife were having children.”
But All trepidation disappeared when they received their first child, a daughter. Kathleen, who today is 24 and living in Nashville, soon was joined by Mary Meghan, now 22 and a junior at the University of South Carolina; John, 18 and a senior at Hilton Head Christian Academy; Anna, 16, a sophomore at Hilton Head Island High School; and Andrew, 15, a freshman at Hilton Head High. Anna and Andrew are biological siblings.
“We didn’t get to six but we got to five,” Karen said.
The oldest two children were born in South Carolina; the others are Russian.
“There are incredible, miracle stories of each and every one of them,” David said. “We could talk for two hours on each and everyone of them.”
When the Burkes applied to become adoptive parents, they were told to expect a long process — at least two years. It turned out to be much shorter.
“I drove to Myrtle Beach at about 125 miles an hour,” he said.
Kathleen’s birth mother wanted to choose her child’s adoptive parents. When no one met her adoption criteria, the young girl and her mother decided to keep the baby.
“The very day they walked in (to the adoption services) and said ‘We are going to do this on our own,’ is when our paperwork came in,” Karen said.
Kathleen was born on a Sunday, the Burkes got the news on that Tuesday, and they picked up the baby in Myrtle Beach on Wednesday, David said.
The Burkes’ second child, born premature, spent two months in neonatal intensive care before she was allowed to come home. The couple’s first international adoption also had a few hiccups — paperwork inadvertently left in a “private” taxi and documents sent to the wrong city.
“When you have your own natural child, you obviously see God’s intervention,” Karen said. “When it is adoption, you can see his hand in it, almost in a miraculous way. “
David, an Elder at Grace Community Church on Hilton Head, agreed: “Where we are in our lives now, it brings such tremendous balance. I know we have been blessed here as a business, we live in one of the most beautiful places in the country, and we have a beautiful neighborhood.”
“We don‘t expect those blessing,” Karen said. “It is just a bonus.”