Burke was born in Norwood, Mass., and grew up in that state and in Maine. He earned a fine-arts degree from Colby College in Maine and was a successful graphic designer for many years in Chicago and San Francisco, then worked in suburban development in Houston before coming to Santa Fe in the early 1980s.
He soon designed and built the Pink Church building on Pacheco Street to accommodate his L.D. Burke Cowboy Furniture business.
Over the next two decades, he created several other of Santa Fe?s more distinctive buildings: The Nunnery just behind the Pink Church, the dragon-topped Fortaleza Coyote building on Second Street, the ?Twin Towers? building at Jackalope, and the tall red, tan, chocolate brown and blue Granaries buildings at the corner of Sixth and Hopewell streets.
He also designed his home on Don Gaspar Avenue, a house filled with paintings, carved mirrors, custom-made tomahawks, Native American rodeo chaps, Burmese marionettes, flying pigs from Bali and all kinds of armadillo figures.
Two of his recent projects were creating monsters from pieces of found wood and making collage-on-wood artworks, including one with dozens of little cowboys and cowgirls, cut out from the covers of paperback Western novels, arranged around a large central picture of Davy Crockett.
He fell in love with cowboys and Texas during a cross-country trip at the beginning of World War II, said his wife of 30 years, Janine Burke.
?Everything he did was colorful,? she said.
L.D. Burke sold more than a thousand of his distinctive framed mirrors at Spider Woman Designs, which used to be on Canyon Road. He also sold furniture at Simply Santa Fe, also now closed.
?He was an amazing guy, a poet and a composer,? said longtime friend Bob Cardinale. ?He wrote the ?Sopaipilla Song? that Randy Travis recorded. And Elizabeth Travis, Randy?s former wife, was a huge collector. She must have 30 or 40 pieces of his furniture.?
A whimsical biography at www.ldburkeofsantafe.com, supposedly written by ?Ma Tex,? begins, ?My loving son L.D. has been an interesting person ever since he got thrown by old White Eye when he was four. The only thing that saved him was his hard head and that?s where he landed.?
His wife said Ma Tex was made up, but she added, ?That?s a funny thing for him to have said way back then because he hit his head, and that?s what he died from.?
On the evening of July 27, Burke fell from a ladder to his sleeping loft at his Heron Lake cabin. At home in Santa Fe on Wednesday, he died of injuries sustained in the fall.
?That cabin was the epitome of his expression. He built every part of it, Adirondack-style with rough branches and pitched roofs,? Jan Burke said. ?He just added another room, which he designed after we visited Russia several years ago.
?It was based on the dacha, or summer house, that people have there. Every time we traveled, he?d come back and build something reminiscent of where we?d just been.?
The couple did a lot of traveling, originally to windsurfing locations.
?We windsurfed all over the world. He was such a vigorous, skilled athlete. He did triathlons, cross-country ski racing, marathons. He pushed me to my limits.
?What he and I shared most deeply was seeking beauty in different cities and in nature. Going up to the cabin was his greatest joy in recent years.?