Eugene Andrew Birke, 94, of St. Marlo Country Club in Duluth, GA, died on December 19, 2021, after a struggle with leukemia and melanoma. He was surrounded by his beloved family after spending 20 days in the Johns Creek Emory Hospital ICU.
He was born to Andrew and Anna (Freno) Birke in Winston-Salem, NC, on October 27, 1927. He was a graduate of Gray High School, which is now the site of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He joined the Navy before his 17th birthday and served in the Philippines until his honorable discharge in 1946. He enrolled in Appalachian State Teachers College, now Appalachian State University, before transferring his sophomore year to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Upon graduation he was offered a job with WBTV in Charlotte, NC, where he later met his wife of 46 years, Anne Vick Birke. He rose to the office of Television Director, directing the WBTV News, the Betty Feezor Show, The Author Smith Show and countless other specials. After 18 years of outstanding service at WBTV, he was offered a job at WSMV in Nashville, TN, and became Program Manager before deciding to start his own production company where he earned a Clio Award, the world’s most recognizable international advertising award. He later became a Sales Representative for Post-Masters, a post editing company. He retired at the age of 70 and then in 2005 he and his wife moved to Duluth, GA, to be closer to family and the young grandchildren.
In high school Gene loved to play football and was offered a scholarship to play the game at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC. He also had a passion to play the frustrating game of golf which happened to be the location of his first date with Anne. They later married at Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, NC, on December 27, 1975. They enjoyed a life of golf and watching sports together, especially cheering on their treasured University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
His faith was always important to him and he continued growing in it into his early 90s through Disciple classes, the Blazers Sunday school class, numerous Bible studies and membership at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church in Atlanta, GA.
Always known for being so charming, Gene was one of the nicest men you would ever meet, had a quick wit, was a true gentleman, and his doctors described him as incredibly stoic. He continued to make the medical team and his family laugh with his one liners all the way up to his final weeks and days.
He was also an artist who could draw anything and sketched wonderful portraits. His love of history was evident in his vast knowledge of the Civil War and WW II, his fascination with airplanes, and prolific reading about our country’s leaders.
He and his wife planned to move to a retirement community in Cary, NC, before he succumbed, after a heroic fight, to cancer. She is now there with family nearby.
Gene is survived by his wife of 46 years, Anne Vick Birke; daughter, Christin Shea Oakes; son-in-law, William R.T Oakes, III; two grandchildren Ansley and Lealand Oakes; brother and sister-in-law, Robert and Margaret Birke; sister, Betty Ann Packler; sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Christine Vick and Radford Koerner, and many extended family relatives.
A Celebration of Life will be held on March 26, 2022, at 12:00pm at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, 3180 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta, GA 30305.
Memorials can be made to Emory Winship Cancer Institute, 1365 E Clifton Road, NE, Building C, Atlanta, GA 30322; Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, or a charity of your choice.
Beautiful memorial tribute. Incredible guy!
Too bad God did not give him another 50 years here on this earth. We are such needed of kind, thoughtful, intelligent people like Gene. I miss him as a neighbor and as a friend.
Gene was a kind and helpful neighbor, always quick witted and a joy to be with. I am saddened by his death.