The Optimist lost a valued member of its extended family late last month with the passing of Community Comment columnist ML Burke.
ML was a special lady, someone I’m proud was part of the Optimist family because she not only called it as she saw it, but she rolled up her sleeves to act on her convictions.
I met her almost a decade ago when I spoke at the Philosophers’ Café at McKee Seniors Recreation Centre, a monthly program she helped facilitate in order to spur discussion on a variety of topical issues. I remember leaving impressed by how her firm, but fair, hand guided that session so when one of our columnists no longer had the time to write and suggested ML as her replacement, I didn’t require any convincing.
And she didn’t disappoint. ML gave you her take on a multitude of topics during her time as a columnist, including her final salvo about the need for MAiD, but if there was one overarching theme in her writing it was that it’s imperative that as a society we look out for everyone, regardless of age or financial means.
She was passionate about creating an inclusive community that has space for everyone. Unlike some older people who want to see the status quo preserved, ML railed against it, imploring anyone who would listen that our outdated attitudes about housing need to change. She championed a variety of measures to accomplish that, from cohousing to rent-to-own programs for young people to granny flats for seniors.
When I took my dog for a walk at Paterson Park last weekend I couldn’t help but think of ML, who saw the century-old harness track at the entrance to Ladner as a swath of untapped potential, a place where we could finally jump into the 21st century by embracing new housing options to create a community that works for everyone. Despite her dogged efforts to turn the vacant land into something so much more, sadly that goal wasn’t reached in her lifetime but ML did show us what it could become if we’re willing to dream.
She was adamant that we must think outside the box in order to think of others, so I’m hopeful that message has resonated with others in our community who will be able to carry on her good works.
ML left us too soon, but she also left Delta a better place.