Life in Mission Hill: Jim Burke

Life in Mission Hill: Jim Burke

By Riley Robinson

Jim Burke, 75, says people sometimes joke that he’s the “mayor of Mission Hill.” But don’t think he doesn’t still drink beers with the college students who live across the street.

“They think it’s amazing, like they’ve never met anyone my age before,” he said. “I mean, I like the students living there. I know some people don’t because it’s noisy, but I don’t have great hearing so I don’t hear a lot of stuff. It’s great because I’m not living in a retirement community, I’m living with everybody else.”

Burke owns a three-story house, where his sister lives on the first floor and his best friend lives on the second. He’s also rented rooms in the house to international graduate and medical students for the past 30 years. He usually becomes close to his tenants. During a trip to Europe this past February, he said he visited 27 former renters.

Burke thinks the neighborhood has become safer while he’s lived here.

“The first week I lived here, I was coming home – I work three to 11 – and some guy was dragging a woman out of a car screaming,” Burke said. “Then I was riding my bike home from work, and I got jumped. It was cold and I was riding home real fast from the hospital. When they knocked me off the bike, I picked up the bike and I knocked three of them down. I just kept screaming and yelling.”

On another commute home, Burke said he was stabbed while walking through Back Bay.

Burke retired five years ago from working as a lab technician at Massachusetts General Hospital. He’s still very involved in the local community, especially the Mission Hill Community Alliance, where he served as treasurer for many years. He still volunteers at MassGen.

“I mean, I worked there for 42 years. I couldn’t just walk out the door and say ‘That’s it.’”

He hasn’t given up on vivacious parties either. He described a neighborhood party he threw last week, with an estimated 70 people in attendance and a jazz band in the backyard.

“I think it went ‘til 3:00 in the morning,” he said. “No one complained, ‘cause they were all here.”

About this project 

The Scope’s student journalists spoke with community members in Mission Hill. #MissionHill100 is a collection of their stories. 

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