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Uncle Bourke by Arlene

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  • Uncle Bourke, my dad's oldest brother, was a genius. Eighteen years separated
    them. Bourke was taller and bigger than my dad.

    My dad's mom, older brothers and sister lived in apartments on the South Side
    of Chicago in neighborhoods around University of Chicago.

    Everyone in the family knew Bourke was brilliant. He was also a drunk.

    His extraordinary mathematical abilities led him to teach at the Illinois Institute
    of Technology though I know he didn't go to college. I’m not sure he even graduated high school.

    He designed and created mechanical things and tools. He sold patents for his creations
    when he was out of work and needed drinking money.

    My dad loved telling this story. Bourke spent a day and part of an evening at a
    favorite bar talking and drinking with a Stranger. No one in the bar has ever seen this man.

    The Stranger and my uncle decided to walk back to my uncle's 2nd or 3rd floor apartment.

    They drank more. They talked more. The Stranger began saying things Uncle Bourke didn't agree
    with or like -- anti-American sentiments.

    Bourke told him to leave. But the stranger didn't move quickly enough.

    Bourke opened the apartment door, picked up this man by his collar and pants
    and threw him down the stairs.

    Years later, the family decided that this Stranger must have been an FBI agent. His job was to
    befriend Bourke to test the patriotism of this brilliant drunk.

    When he met the Stranger in the bar, Uncle Bourke was working on a job at the University of Chicago
    at Stagg Field. He didn't know it's name then but it was the Manhattan Project.

    Bourke designed and made instruments and tools the scientists needed to create what man had never before created.
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