It is with great love and admiration that we say goodbye to Christine Perry-Burke, who passed peacefully on Friday due to complications with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a battle she’d been waging for the past 6 years. Many of you in the industry know her as a fearless leader (emphasis on the FEARLESS), but more importantly, a generous and caring friend. Her compassion for others and bottomless heart spilled into every interaction and will continue to reverberate over time.
Christine was a driving force in the photography industry from her start as a photographer, then educator, and finally as Finao’s managing partner. She, along with her devoted husband Tony Randhawa, and her dear friend Keith Piccione founded Finao in partnership with a real vision for change and possibility. She breathed a true life-force into the company and poured her passion and vision into each and every one of us, so that we will carry that torch high and bright in her honor and continue to stand at the forefront as a catalyst for change, and with a true sense of purpose as partners with professional photographers.
Christine single-handedly changed the way albums are manufactured, sold, and displayed by revolutionizing the look and sales of photo albums from boring black albums to cool contemporary art pieces that are now displayed in homes all around the world. Her vision and unique sense of style will leave a lasting impression on the photo industry for many years to come. I always joked with her that I was going to get a bunch of those rubber bracelets made up that would say WWCD (What Would Christine Do?). It’s how I try to base all of my decisions for the company on a day-to-day basis, and her clear voice, strong opinions and deep insights will always be something I can reflect on both professionally and personally.
I’m sure that anyone who ever met Christine over the years has a story (or two) to tell. She most definitely left an impression! Some will remember Christine for her wicked fashion sense or wild pink hair. Others will remember Christine for her willingness to share the business knowledge and sharp insights gathered from years of experience in the industry. Vendors will always remember her as a tough, honest, and fair negotiator.
I’ll remember her as a friend, an inspiration and mentor, an amazing woman who’s proven that adversity is just another door to kick down. I’ll remember her for her flair: she did EVERYTHING with a touch of class! From insisting on packing a table-cloth and vase with fresh flowers for each “flamping” (camping with an airplane) trip she took with Tony (one of her favorite things, by the way), right down to making sure that every detail was perfect in the dioramas she painstakingly created for her infamous teddy bear collection. That will always bring a smile to my face. Some other fun facts: Did you know she used to drive a Delorean?! How many people in the world can say that?! And something I’ve been devastatingly jealous of for many years: NIRVANA stayed at her house back when they were first emerging to become an American icon. I mean, come on…Nirvana…sigh.
Yes, she was known as a true force of nature in the industry, but she was so much more as a person when you got the chance to know her. With a passion for politics, Christine worked as a staffer on a number of campaigns in her earlier years, and continued to champion the power of the individual with their votes as well as their wallets; one of the reasons she strove to make Finao a great corporate citizen with big heart and small footprints. She had graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Masters in Fine Art and had an affinity not just toward Warhol or the great impressionists, but she absolutely loved pottery and stoneware and collected roku pieces from local contemporaries like Ed Risak and had a cherished tea pot from Tim Mather. She always talked about wanting to volunteer as a docent at the Detroit Institute of Art. She took me there once and I was astounded at her knowledge as we toured piece by piece. She especially loved the entire room dedicated to industry in Detroit by Diego Rivera. We could have spent hours in that room absorbing it all.
I’m sure that even those who didn’t know her well probably knew that she ABSOLUTELY ADORED animals. Especially the little lost ones. Christine and Tony have cared for more animals over the years than I could possibly count, and that love spreads to the office where the Finao fam brings our own pets to work as well; a lovely gift to enjoy each day. But to their current 2 dogs and 3 cats, she was the best, most loving mommy in the world.
Her flowers were also amazing. She’d walk me around the house where she’d spent years planting and nurturing a huge assortment of perennials and she’d tell me the name of each one and what it would look like at different seasons. They also lovingly fed the birds each day, and loved watching the variety. Recently, she showed me the Michigan Bird Guide she keeps handy in the living room and pointed out that almost all the pages had been dog-eared as they had been fortunate enough to get visits from so many of the different species. Those flowers and the birds just add to the tranquility of their home together, which is why it is completely fitting that her ashes be kept here, side-by-side with the beloved pets they’ve lost over the years, overlooking this lovely garden that gave her so much enjoyment.
In the end, it’s the LOVE that Christine brought to the world that will continue to shine on in her absence. I was talking to a friend last night who asked if there was anything she could do. My response was that Christine would have wanted us to go out and do something nice for someone else. Today, the next day, just keep the love going. If we all make a conscious effort to be a little nicer, a little more considerate, and make a little more love in the world, I think that would be the ultimate way to honor her memory. She and Tony gave-up exchanging holiday gifts many years ago, and instead make generous donations to a great number of charities they care about. She would be humbled and honored if any of you who would normally send flowers at a time like this, would instead make a donation in her name to a great charity, whether for local needs or to benefit others in far reaches of the world. A few of her favorites were Best Friends Animal Society and Almost Home Rescue League.
A small memorial service with family and close friends will be held at their home on a later date – details yet to come. Christine is survived by her loving and devoted husband, Tony Randhawa, and dear friend and business partner Keith Piccione; her adorable fur babies: Alfie, Chewbacca, Whippit, Tucker and Woodbridge; all of the employees and friends in the Finao family, and her loving friends throughout the world.
We will miss her deeply.