Monday, September 26, 2022

How a Family Heirloom Lives On

My paternal grandfather, Isaac Burk (1882-1943) and his older brother, Abraham Berk (1877-1962), both trained as cabinetmakers before leaving their hometown of Gargzdai, Lithuania, around the turn of the 20th century. They were seeking more economic opportunity in North America...Isaac ultimately settling in New York City, Abraham settling in Montreal.

That lovely piece of furniture in the photo at top, complete with special touches, was handmade by Isaac many decades in the past.

After Isaac died, the night stand was used daily by his widow, my grandmother Henrietta Mahler Burk (1881-1954), and then inherited by her younger son, my uncle Sidney B. Burk (1914-1995). 

Today, this heirloom has a special place in the home of my first cousin, who regularly talks of Isaac and Henrietta to his children and grandchildren.

Even without the actual heirloom, I do the same--telling descendants of Isaac's woodworking virtuosity and showing off the photo to give the next generation a sense of pride about their ancestor's creation. His name and his skills will live on!


  1. What a beautiful work of art and craftmanship! So fantastic that you and your cousin are keeping his memory alive with the passing of his story along with this heirloom! The best way to preserve family history! :)

  2. What a great post and such a gorgeous piece of woodworking. I have a cabinet that my grandfather refinished, and although he didn’t make it, I can see his handiwork in the varnish and remember the cabinet from my grandparents’ living room. Glad this piece stayed in your family.