Leigh Ferne Temme McGee

Dedicated world traveler and storyteller, Leigh Ferne Temme McGee died peacefully on April 13 2024. Born in St. Louis, Missouri on December 5, 1935, the only child of Ferne Biles Temme and Leroy Henry Temme, Leigh enjoyed the company of many during her 88 years. Her cousins Ruth Temme Funck, Bob Eigenrach, Billy Temme, her foster sister Wanda Han, her sorority sister Eleanor, her husband of 53 years Howard H. McGee Jr, bridge friends, god daughter Mary Francis, her teaching and story telling friends and fellow travelers.

In 1954, Leigh graduated Lutheran High Central and went on to graduate from Valparaiso University (Valparaiso, IN) with a Bachelor Arts in speech and drama. She was a member of Delta Chi Epsilon and elected to the national drama society, Alpha Psi Omega. Pursuing her Masters of Science in library science at the University of Illinois, Leigh graduated and just days later married at Pilgrim Lutheran Church on August 12, 1962. She worked as a school librarian and teacher I n St Louis public schools (various city and county schools) and earned a Masters in Education from Webster University.

Leigh and Howard had two children, Laurel Leigh McGee Burke and Steven Michael McGee, who survived them both and live in Missouri. Survived also by her caring son-in-law, Alan Burke from county Waterford in Ireland (though residing in the United States since 1991 when he wed Laurel the first time) and her only grandchild, Saoirse Grace Burke. Some say in addition to the vast appreciation for his attentiveness in the last 10+ years, she may even have had a late life crush on the Irish lad who gave her companionship, looked after her home and food needs and shared many a story with; she certainly loved his Irish coffees at the St Patrick’s Day celebrations she determined to attend – even this year after a fall and hospitalization in early March.

Joy for travel adventures, keen intellect, need to be right, and sense of humor kept Leigh engaged in the happenings of the world and likely accounted for her shock that modern medicine had no way to keep her body going any longer. She was even joking about “Trump bibles” during her last hospital stay. Telling tales in the schools and then to her granddaughter turned into writing (and “singing”) epic songs, especially about her granddaughter and son in law. She recently completed her “free” pins of Canadian provinces collection by talking to many a surprised Canadian cajoled into helping.

She visited the capitals of all 50 US states and all the provinces in Canada. In a trip to Ireland, Leigh met Alan’s sisters and believed Alan and Laurel remarrying was part of her grand family plan. Her global jaunts and epic cruises took her to Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Australia and New Zealand. But for the Covid pandemic she may have gotten to Antarctica too. Her love of nature and animals was exhibited in her continued support for the World Wildlife Federation and Sierra Club. While Leigh’s travels have ended, may her joy in living to adventure and love of learning persist in all who knew her. Share a story below or by emailing theburkes@hotmail.com.





  1. Lori G on May 2, 2024 at 6:59 pm

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. May her wonderful memories always be a blessing.

  2. Michelle Burke on May 2, 2024 at 7:24 pm

    Beautiful words a life well lived ,so sorry for your loss Laurel,Alan and saoirse 💔

  3. Colleen Bryan on May 2, 2024 at 7:52 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss, dear Burke family. Leigh was certainly a character who lived a long rich life. But I know your support in later years kept it lively and rich even as physical capacities failed her. Blessings at this moment of her passing. Much love.

  4. The Hadleys on May 2, 2024 at 10:58 pm

    What a beautiful tribute for a life so well lived. May her memories bring you joy and comfort.

  5. Alethea Poste on May 3, 2024 at 12:05 am

    What beautifully written words and tribute to her full life. Your mom was such a smart lady. I loved hearing her stories of her travels. What a blessing to have spent the last years of her life near her with your family! Sending a big hug from us all and wishing you peace during this difficult time.

  6. elizabeth c winslow on May 3, 2024 at 7:49 am

    Sending condolences to each of you this morning Laurel. I’m so glad to have met your Mom those many years ago at Lowry. Her life was full of the people and places she loved best.💖.
    Blessings and peace,

  7. Robin Reed on May 3, 2024 at 9:33 am

    Holding you in my heart dear, Laurel

  8. Lisa Hunt on May 3, 2024 at 9:51 am

    Dear Laurel and family,

    What a beautifully written tribute! Please accept my condolences. Your mother was a nice part of my childhood. I so enjoyed going to the house in Webster Groves. You all are in my thoughts. Lisa Hunt (Mary Frances’ sister)

  9. Julie Foley Watts on May 3, 2024 at 1:07 pm

    Laurel, sending hugs and prayers for you and your family. I know this is a very difficult time as I have lost both of my parents as well. I know she’s in a good place now.

  10. MARY GRAFF on May 4, 2024 at 10:06 am

    Will forever remember sharing our love of family histories and helping to create your compilation of Christmas carols, which was quite a task with all the miles between us. I miss your phone calls and was always amazed at your unfailing memory; you were incredible! I will miss you dearly.

  11. Aoife Burke on May 10, 2024 at 8:06 am

    Lovely tribute to Leigh
    ar dhéis de go raibh a hanam

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