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Mara's Creative Spirit

Mara Burk, education coordinator for Lorton Arts Foundation, died Sept. 21.

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Mara Burk, the Lorton Arts Foundation's education coordinator, posed with some of her glass mosaic work during the August open house for the foundation’s yoga and arts classes. Burk died from injuries sustained after falling from a golf cart.

Mara Burk couldn't find enough ways to occupy her time.

A yoga teacher, after-school program coordinator at Lane Elementary School and the education coordinator for the Lorton Arts Foundation, Burk wanted to get her hands into everything and give as much time and energy as possible to the children she loved, both her own and those in her communities.

"There was nothing she wouldn't try," said Lorton Arts Foundation executive arts director Sharon Mason, who first met Burk through a stained glass studio years ago. "There was nothing she wouldn't get her hands in. Any project we had, no matter who suggested it or designed it, she wanted to try it out and see how it would work."

It is the boundless enthusiasm and vitality that Mason will miss most about Burk, who died on Friday, Sept. 21.

Burk and a co-worker were traveling by golf cart earlier that week when Burk fell out and hit her head on the pavement, Mason said. She was taken to Inova Fairfax Hospital but never regained consciousness. As an organ donor, Burk was able to help up to 200 people in need through the use of her organs and tissue, according to a page set up by her family on SupportCircle.com.

With the Lorton Arts Foundation, Burk ran the Artist's Palette fund raiser program for two of the three years it has been offered, Mason said, and was starting to write curriculum for area schools on behalf of the Foundation.

"She was just starting to work more hours on our educational component to design that program for our official opening in March," Mason said. Now that Burk is gone, she is not sure how the program will come together without Burk's enthusiasm and input.

"We're not really sure where we'll head without her," she said. "Losing her just broke our hearts."

FOR THE PAST two years, Burk also worked with another parent to create an after-school program at Lane Elementary in Alexandria, where her two young children are students, said principal Suzie Montgomery.

"She went so over and beyond what she was asked to do as a PTA member," Montgomery said.

Burk and her PTA partner created a series of art, math, science and craft clubs for children. After-school programs are common in nearly all middle schools across the county, but are almost unheard of for elementary-school students.

"Mara taught a yoga class for parents and their children and was planning a family fitness night for some Saturday in November," Montgomery said.

Burk had been a volunteer at Lane for at least five years, Montgomery said, one year longer than Montgomery has been principal there.

"Mara was very enthusiastic, very dynamic, very committed to what she was doing," Montgomery said. "She was happy to work with everyone and anyone for the benefit of our school."

Burk had been teaching classes for all age and skill levels for the past five years at Sun and Moon Yoga Studio in Fairfax, said Carol Confino, another teacher at the studio. Burk was a student there for 10 years.

"She really connected with the students," Confino said. "She had a following of about 24 people who would come to her 10 a.m. class on Friday, which really says something."

Burk also brought her art to display in the studio, Confino said, further combining her interests in everything she touched.

"I'll miss having her around and being able to laugh with her," said fellow yoga teacher Annie Moyer. "Mara was very real, she didn't walk around and claim to have this deep wisdom others didn't have. She didn't make yoga this unobtainable thing."

Rixie Dennison, who mentored Burk through her yoga teaching certification, said Burk had a gift for teaching and connecting with people.

"She had these eyes that just sparkled," Dennison said. "When you would talk with her, she was absolutely present. She was right there with you."

Tina Leone, executive director at the Lorton Arts Foundation, said Burk will be remembered as a happy person, eager to try everything at least once.

"Everything was 'I can do this, we can figure it out,' and that's what was great about her," Leone said.

Leone said she and Mason had Burk in their thoughts during their opening event last weekend, a huge success that could not be fully enjoyed because Burk was not there to share it with them.

"Everything she touched she made it better," Leone said. "We feel so bad and sympathetic for her kids and her husband. Mara was a star."

The Lorton Arts Foundation is hoping to name something after Burk, Leone said, but no final decisions have been made.

Burk is survived by her husband, Stuart, and two children, Delaney and Zane.