By Rosemarie Romeo
In memory of Monk Burkmier
Editor’s note: Lark Ellen was Monk’s DJ name.
Knowing a disc jockey has its advantages. I wish I had more of Lark Ellen’s playlists to stream through the sound system. He had a unique taste in music and his fans loved it. His life was music. He volunteered at concerts, festivals, other venues and, at times, produced his own. He would listen to the young musicians and could tell if they would make it big.
At Steve’s Guitars, he told me the Infamous Stringdusters were the best. I said, “I will be the judge of that.” We were both opinionated. He was right. He helped them every way he could. He played their music on the radio and he lost money on them when he planned a show to bring attention to them; but, he didn’t care. It was a good party and everyone had a good time and they went on to be famous. A poster signed by all of the band members that night was my birthday gift to him that year.
If you knew him you were lucky. His friends were his family. He never had roots, only places with memories where he found joy. Some were really lucky because he was their mentor. When you needed him he was there. If you didn’t know him, he was still there. Even if you didn’t deserve it, he’d help you. That’s the way he was.
Those who knew him, knew he loved butter. I think it was his middle name.
He came from nowhere and longed for nothing. However you knew him, he sized you up in a minute, this minute, the only time that mattered. He did kind things. He did funny things. He was an atheist but constantly said, “Thank God,” and called it an expression. He wasn’t much on religion.
Sometimes, when you least expected, he would do something that you never understood, and there was no sense in asking because he wouldn’t tell you. He just did it. Like the time he called and asked, “Are you going to be there?” and I said, “Yes.“ He replied “I’ll be there in a little while, don’t go anywhere.” An hour later he came down the hall dragging a box with a new television. Why? I’ll never know. I can only guess. Was it because he thought he didn’t get enough money for the car he sold for me? or because he saw the little T.V. I was watching, and thought I needed a larger one? Anyway, He brought the television, hooked it up, handed me the remote and left — no kind words, no explanation. That was Monk.
If you knew him, you sat at the table and played Rummikub, you smoked pot and drank a beer, ate beautiful tasty food, prepared by his partner in life, Marie. You talked about music and you laughed a lot, picking on each other for fun. He was deep. He was a philosopher. He looked for good in you and hoped for the best. On Memorial Day he would burn a flag and speak to those present about his love of country. He was a patriot, a veteran and he was proud.
His playlists have ended but the memories live on. Think of the times he’d stop in your store, meet you on the street, bring you a gift, show up at your door or play a song for you on the radio. When you were having problems he would play a song for you. If he liked you, you knew it. He would play your favorite tune and dedicate it to you. If he thought he did something wrong, he’d play music so you would think of the good times and remember how much he loved you, and hope you would forgive him — you always did, because you loved him too.