It is with profound sadness that we share that Susan Margaret Burke (nee Cooper) died suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes in the early morning hours of August 22, 2022, on her way home from babysitting her grandsons. Susan leaves behind her husband, Steven Burke, daughters Alana Burke (Alex Laidlaw) and Sarah Barbalat (Eitan), grandchildren Caleb, Jack, Miles and Jude, twin sister Jane Cooper and step-mother Pierrette Cooper. She also leaves behind her beloved brood of dogs, Ava, Freddy, Rusty, Milly, Snuggles, Iggy, Riley and Jason. She is predeceased by her mother Beatrice Cooper (nee Wilkes) and father Patrick Cooper. She will be dearly missed by her brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, great-nephews and friends.
Susan was born on June 4, 1953 in London, England. She moved to Calgary, Alberta at the age of three and was raised there, and then moved to Toronto, Ontario after graduating from the University of Alberta. She worked in advertising for many years, eventually becoming the Vice President of Advertising Standards for the Canadian Advertising Foundation, and then the Director of Public Affairs for Concerned Children’s Advertisers. Her true passions however, were her family, friends and animal rescue.
She met Steve in Toronto through work, and they were married on May 14, 1983. Alana was born in 1984, followed by Sarah in 1988. She was truly the most caring, devoted and involved Mom the world has ever seen. She was a tireless supporter of Alana’s horseback riding and Sarah’s figure skating, driving them to and from barns and rinks, practices, horse shows and skating competitions. She never missed a competition, despite her strong distaste for early mornings, travelling all over Canada and internationally to support her daughters in all their endeavours. She knew nearly all of Alana and Sarah’s friends, endearing herself to them with her wicked sense of humour and “cool mom” credentials.
She was a fierce friend to many, and maintained her relationships in Calgary for decades after moving to Toronto. She was constantly in contact with her loved ones, helping them through difficult times and consistently showing up for them no matter what—if you had her in your corner, she would move mountains for you. She wasn’t one for big shows of emotion, tons of “I love you”s or hugs, but nobody ever questioned her love because she was always there and would do anything for her family and friends.
In 2012, she co-founded UDR Canada Rescue with longtime family friend Lauren Culver. They were joined in 2014 by Shannon Kazarian and since then they have been three peas in a pod, working together to save hundreds (if not thousands) of animals from various circumstances and situations. It was truly her life’s work and she drove countless hours, spent countless dollars and cried countless tears over the welfare of the dogs and animals she helped to save. She was a tireless advocate and warrior for animals, both the ones she helped through the UDR and also any animal who was fortunate enough to cross her path—from the many injured birds and critters she saved, to all of the wildlife who ever set foot on her property. She knew all of the deer, raccoons and birds, and even bought special food for them so that they would continue to visit.
Her first grandson, Caleb, was born in 2019, and from that moment on she had a second life’s work—being the world’s best Nana. She was a nanny to Caleb when Sarah went back to work, and then did the same for Jack when Alana’s maternity leave was over. She was absolutely enamoured with all of her grandsons, and they loved her just as much. Each of them had their own unique nicknames, jokes, rituals and traditions with their Nana, and she spoiled them endlessly with gifts and treats, despite the protestations of their parents. Caleb loved to go out in the wagon with Nana, who would put a heart-shaped pillow behind his back so that he was comfortable and take him to the bagel store or Starbucks. She was Jack’s favourite person, and he jumped with excitement every time her car pulled into the driveway, waiting for her to come in and let him rifle through her purse and help her put on her slippers. She was the first person to make both Jack and Miles laugh, which thrilled her. She jumped to do the most mundane tasks with Jude, like changing his diaper or feeding him. She spent countless hours with them, but it will never be enough.
In addition to being a loving wife, mom, Nana, friend and animal rescuer, she was sarcastic, judgmental and opinionated (anyone who followed her on Facebook could attest to that). She was active and lively and busy, but would drop everything to help a person or animal who needed her. Her quick wit, sparkling eyes and fantastic smirk will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know her.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, September 18th from 11am-2:30pm at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club (141 Wilson Avenue, Toronto, ON M5M 3A3). Formalities will happen at 11:30am. Please RSVP if you plan to attend (https://pp.events/aaO96YR2). Please wear florals, pastels, or animal themed attire instead of black. Please use this link for the livestream (https://youtu.be/ZguW7kr1zxc) for those who are unable to attend in person. We welcome everyone to share photos, stories and videos as well as sign the guest book.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to support animal rescue and welfare. Her favourite organizations included the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (https://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org), Georgina Animal Services (https://www.georgina.ca/living-here/animal-services) and of course the UDR Canada Rescue (https://www.underdograilroadcanada.com).
Info: Everyone is welcome! If you plan to join us, please RSVP so we have an idea of numbers: https://pp.events/aaO96YR2. Please wear florals, pastels, or animal themed attire instead of black. Please use this link to livestream (https://youtu.be/ZguW7kr1zxc) for those who cannot attend in person.