September 30, 1927 ~ September 21, 2008

Jean Casale Burkus was born on September 30, 1927, the first child of Agostino and Frances Casale in Brooklyn, New York. She attended PS-68, 73 and Grover Cleveland High School where she graduated with honors in Biology. She attended City University of New York (CUNY) at Hunter College where she majored in Biology and graduated in 1948. She completed Fellowships in Sciences at Rutgers University and the University of California (UCLA). She continued her academic work at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and was awarded a Masters Degree in Fine Arts in Biology in 1952. In 1949 she married John Burkus in New York City. From this loving marriage, there are three children - Anne Burkus-Chasson, Kenneth Burkus, Gregory Burkus and seven grandchildren. Rearing this brood of children, she was an active homemaker, avid gardener and a forthcoming teacher. In the early 1960's she returned to teaching on a part-time basis as a substitute teacher. She relished being thrown into different classes with different age groups of students and different lesson plans to be covered. In the 1970's she returned to teaching full-time at the Amity Regional Junior High School in Orange, Connecticut, where she taught Biology. Over the next 25 years she served as Department Chair and mentor for colleagues and student teachers. She was active locally, regionally and nationally with the National Science Teachers Association, the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Connecticut Teachers Association. She restructured and updated the traditional science curriculum, incorporating controversial scientific issues, the health needs of adolescents and concepts of human sexuality. As gender biases develop early in life, she particularly was concerned about 'the need for women to see the value and importance of science, both as a knowledge base and potential career.' These pioneering efforts and achievements were recognized by the Milken Family Foundation. She received one of the first Milken Educator Awards to be given to a Connecticut educator. In 1992 she retired for the first time from teaching. She returned to the profession of teaching by mentoring and supervising student teachers at Southern Connecticut State Teachers College. In 2006, she retired from teaching for the second time. Her husband, John, a PhD in Chemistry, passed in 1990. She lived independently and never remarried. She lived a full life, enjoying travel, music, gardening, and always teaching - whether it be in the classroom or with her grandchildren. She traveled extensively throughout Europe, going as far as Siberia. She participated both at home and abroad in numerous Elderhostels, studying music, architecture, fine arts and healthcare issues. After having lived in Woodbridge for many years, Jean recently moved to Georgia to be near her son. On September 21, 2008, she passed on peacefully after a short battle with leukemia. She is survived by her loving and supporting sister, Angela Casale Sinacore (John) of Palm Bay, FL; her daughter Anne Burkus-Chasson, PhD, Associate Professor at University of Illinois (Timothy) of Champagn, IL; her son J. Kenneth Burkus, MD (Michelle) Columbus, GA and their children, John, Michael and Andrew; her son Gregory Burkus, MBA (Sheila) of Weston, MA and their children, Nicholas, Alexa, Annie and Kylie. She is also survived by several loving nieces and nephews. A Memorial Service will be held at BEECHER & BENENTT, 2300 Whitney Ave., Hamden, on Saturday, September 27th at 3:00 p.m. Burial will take place on Monday, September 29th at 9:00 a.m. at East Side Cemetery in Woodbridge. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Jean's memory may be made to the Hunter College Scholarship and Welfare Fund (, Hunter College Scholarship and Welfare Fund, 695 Park Avenue, Room 1314HE, New York, New York, 10065).

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Memories Timeline

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  1. Dear Burkus Family, It is with great sympathy that we reach out to you in this difficult time. Jean was vibrant, giving and always ready for a challenge. She has truly made our world a better place. All Our Love, The Bernadou’s

  2. Dear Burkus family, Mrs. Burkus ws my 9th grade Biology teacher at Amity Junior High in 1981. She was the best teacher I ever had, and she inspired me to obtain a BS in Biology. Her passion for her students, her family (Greg was playing football at Yale at the time), and her profession stand out in my mind even now. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Sincerely, Claire Sampieri Scully

  3. Dear Family, My deepest condolences to all of you on the loss of your mother and grandmother. I knew Jean from being a member with her in Zeta Chapter of The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International. She was always filled with stories of her wonderful family and her travels. I loved listening to her. She was a valuable member, always a grand lady and I will miss her. Sincerely, Terry Azoti

  4. Dear Ken and Greg: Joe and the rest of our family join me in sending our condolences to you and your families on the loss of your wonderful mother-a truly remarkable woman.

  5. Dear Ken, Greg and Ann-Gail, I am sorry that I will be unable to attend the memorial sevice on Saturday. But I certainly want to express my admiration for your Mom and my sympathy for your loss. Jean was a wonderful, sensitive and supportive teacher/colleague for many years of our mutual careers. And you three (and your cast of characters!) were the lights of her life. I know that you have innumerable sweet memories of happy, healthy times which will ease the pain on these first difficult days and weeks. Fond regards to you all……Gerri

  6. I remember Jean from my years at Amity J.H.S. – Bethany back in the late ’60s. She loved her family and teaching. Her love and dedication will be missed by her family, many friends and former students I am sure. My sympathy on your loss of this fine lady.

  7. I swam early-bird with your mother @ Beecher Pool and she was a burst of fresh energy and insight every morning. She adored ALL of you and shared interesting news of the past and present. I dedicated a recent swim to her and think of her often. I am certain she is still doing her laps in Heaven, flippers and all. I will miss seeing her wearing her great hats and wonderful smile!

  8. Ken and Greg, I was saddened when my dad told me of your mom’s passing. It was an honor to have been her student. Her inspirational teaching ignited the fire for my passion (my work) in the allied health field. My Condolences, John D’Amico

  9. My deepest sympathy on the loss of an amazing woman. Jean was a life long learner who was also an excellent teacher. I am proud to have known her, worked with her and learned from her. Marilyn Odell

  10. My deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers to all of Jean’s loved ones. Jean was a highly respected educator and well loved member of the Zeta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. She was truly a special member who will be greatly missed by all. Joan Davies

  11. My most sincere condolences to all the members of Jean’s family. I too taught at the Amity Jr. High School in Orange and when I left to pursue my Master’s degree in Biolgy it was Jean who was hired to take my place. A better choice could not have been made. Over the years we kept in touch and as noted in Jan Brinton’s note we shared a meal now and then and caught up. She never ceased to amaze me with her adventures and travels and her love of life and learning. I shall miss her greatly and will think of her often.

  12. My sympathies to the family of Ms. Burkus. I was one of Jean’s students and will always remember her as a brilliant woman and a great teacher. She beamed with pride when speaking of you and with this became a role model for me. Jean showed me that you could have both a passion for your work and a great love of family- she was an inspiration in my life. Sincerely, Pamela Hirth

  13. My sympathy is extended to the entire family. I worked with Jean on several committees in Delta Kappa Gamma as well as in her capacity as a supervisor of student teachers. Jean exemplified class and professionalism. She was a life long learner. We often shared travel stories. You were truly blessed to have her as a mother, mother-in-law, and grandmother.

  14. This is very sad news. I’m sure Mrs. Burkus would not remember me specifically, but she was the greatest and coolest Bio teacher. I had her in 9th grade back in 1989 and still remember certain lessons from her class. She was one of the rare teachers that all students liked and respected. My condolences to her family.

  15. To Jean’s family, Jean was an outstanding educator and a women of great intelligence, charm and grace. It was an honor to have known her as a sister in the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, Zeta Chapter, a society of women educators from all over the world. Her friendship and contributions will be rememberd forever.

  16. To the Burkus Family, I feel blessed to have been a friend and neighbor of Jean’s for these past 15 years. We enjoyed many conversations on gardening, art, her travels and her teaching. She will live on in my memories as a spectacularly strong, vibrant, special woman; a role model for a life well and fully lived. My heart goes out to all of you. Fondly, Pat Cardozo and Family

  17. To The Burkus Family, I just returned from a brief vacation and was informed of Jean’s passing. I am so saddened. Jean was one of my favorite patients. I enjoyed our conversations, her warmth and intelligence . It was a privilege to know her. Sincerely, Gerald D. Alexander, D.M.D.

  18. Your mother and my husband, Bob Brinton, taught at the Jr. High School in Orange. In the more recent past, Ev Moulton, Helen Pfeifer, your mother and I would get together for lunch in a nearby restaurant. We talked, looked at pictures and shared what we had been doing since the last time we had met. We asked Frank D’Amico to join us but I think he declined. He probably wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise! Your mother was so intelligent and so down to earth. We all enjoyed her humor. She shared her sense of awe by describing how she stood on a balcony in Northern Italy and looked out at a lake and all the emotions that filled her heart at such beauty. Her life was one that was well lived. We will all miss her. Jan Brinton

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