Liz Burko, California State Parks Ranger

I got a call to perform in the celebration of life for a peace officer to take place on October 9, 2015. I didn’t know much more than that other than it took place at Armstrong Redwoods near Guerneville, California. I have a fair number of engagements that I step into without much information, so I often do not know what to expect. I enjoy being surprised and occasionally I find myself in for something exceptional. This was one.

The setting was Forest Theater surrounded by redwoods. The sun was at the perfect angle, forming a pattern of dappled light. Among those present – her family and work associates – there was a rare atmosphere of gentleness. This was surprising because many of her State Parks friends were rangers in full uniform, including sidearms.

Of course, the most exceptional aspect of the experience were the stories of Elizabeth Burko herself. She was one of those people who had what the Buddhists call “right livelihood.” She did what she loved, protected what she loved (redwood forests, especially), and people. She loved her family, the people she worked with, and park visitors. She had one of those rare gem hearts. So naturally, she was loved in return. It showed in every eulogy by family and colleagues. Liz was exceptional.

She died young (55) after crashing her scooter when swerving to avoid hitting a raccoon. She had worked at Big Basin, and in the northern California parks and was most recently superintendent of the Russian River District. Her director called her an “old-style ranger that everyone loved.”

So, thank you for your service, Liz. I never knew you, but you and I are very much aligned in our beliefs. It was an honor to be part of your celebration of life.