If the universe has a center, it’s probably located at the intersection of N Fremont Ave and 35th St. N in Seattle. That’s what a colorful, slightly askew signpost says, anyway. If you look a little further, you will find a giant stone troll tucked under the Aurora Bridge, a 16-foot bronze statue of Vladimir Lenin and a 53-foot rocket bearing the motto of the Fremont neighborhood. It says “De Libertas Quirkas” or “Freedom to be Peculiar.”
And if the center of the universe has a queen, it’s probably Suzie Burke. In fact, one of her nicknames is the “Queen of Fremont,” and it’s little wonder why. As president of Fremont Dock Company, Burke has major real-estate investments in the neighborhood, and she is a board member of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce. Additionally, the Burke family has a long-standing history in Fremont, beginning with the founding of her father’s lumber mill in 1939.
“I support things that serve Fremont,” says Burke. She’s unapologetic about the fact she puts Fremont first and foremost in everything she does, from job creation to philanthropy. But her sense of community isn’t hemmed in by official boundaries — it spreads quickly from the center of the universe out to the larger Seattle area, a community that includes Northwest Hospital & Medical Center. When Burke found out that the Northwest Hospital Childbirth Center was planning to expand, she saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community by making a gift.
With the support of people like Burke, the hospital’s childbirth center plans to double its patient capacity, offer more privacy for families and provide more accommodations for visiting family members. It will also improve emergency care by expanding the Level II special-care nursery neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and by immediately transferring babies who are very sick or premature to the region’s highest-level NICU at UW Medical Center.
The expansion comes at a time of positive change for Northwest Hospital & Medical Center. On January 1, 2020, Northwest Hospital will become another campus of UW Medical Center, a move that will allow the hospital to retain its neighborhood feel while expanding the range of services and expertise available to families in North End communities.
“I think of Northwest as the hospital in the neighborhood,” says Burke. “It has been the hospital for my cousins and extended family. The people I care about go there, so of course I support it.”
However, it should come as no surprise that, for Burke, all roads — including this gift — lead back to the center of the universe. She offers a local Fremont business as an example.
“Tableau used to be five guys in an office space in the Burke Building. Today, Tableau provides people with thousands of really good jobs,” says Burke. “All of those people eventually need to visit a hospital, and Northwest Hospital is a great one.”