Walter Burke Davis III died of cancer at his home in Halifax on Oct. 17 with his beloved wife, Kelly Cherry, at his side.
Burke was born a few minutes after midnight on Jan. 1, 1946, in Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the first of what would be called the boomer generation. His parents, Burke and Evangeline Davis, were prominent writers. At the time of his birth, his father was editor of the Charlotte News.
The family moved to Greensboro, where Burke and his sister grew up in an 18th century house in the country. As a child, Burke liked climbing trees and playing tennis. He was a tennis and track star at Christchurch School in Virginia, where he attended junior and senior high school. He continued his education at Duke University, then took a year-long trip around the world during which he visited five continents.
On his return to the U.S., Burke began his careers as a writer and a specialist in rare books. For a time, he owned a bookstore in Greensboro. In 1980, he published a novel, “Dwelling Places,” which was widely praised. For two years he was an investigative journalist for the Fauquier County Democrat in Virginia. He also worked as an editor. His wife, Kelly, a nationally prominent writer who was Poet Laureate of Virginia, counted on him as the first reader of her manuscripts. In the last two decades of his life, he devoted much of his time to the restoration of his and Kelly’s 19th- century farmhouse near Halifax.
Burke was a brilliant, funny, warm man of great enthusiasms. His reading interests included quantum physics, the Holocaust, American and European history, and thrillers. He was a talented cook and gourmand; he particularly enjoyed soft shell crab and oysters. He loved music, especially Beethoven’s late quartets and the Beatles.
In addition to his wife, Kelly, Burke leaves behind his sister, Angela Davis-Gardner of Raleigh, North Carolina; three daughters, Sarah, Kate and Leah; and a nephew, Heath Davis-Gardner. Burke also leaves, Booker, his companion until the end.
The family would like to thank Burke’s friends, J.P Smith and Linda Guill-Smith, for their devotion and extraordinary help during his illness. Linda oversaw his care during his illness and J.P., among many other kindnesses, took him on a final trip to the beach. Thanks also to Burke’s wonderful aides Tammy Wade, Tiffany Wade, Brandi Hancock, Mandy Fitzgerald, Misty Tanksley, Wanda Saunders, Lisa Becker, and Jamie Fallen.
Given the pandemic, there will be no funeral. An informal celebration of his life will take place at a later time. In lieu of flowers, one might consider a donation to Doctors Without Borders or Hospice of Virginia.