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Gene Burkard, founder of International Male, dies at 90

Gene Burkard, founder of International Male, dies at 90

Eugene Raymond Burkard, founder of one of San Diego's most successful businesses, the International Male catalog and stores, passed away on Dec. 11, 2020. He was 90 years old.

After returning to the United States from military service in 1968, Burkard founded the highly successful International Male brand, which included a popular catalog and retail locations. Burkard became active in the LGBTQ and HIV community through his volunteer and charitable work over the years. Read the full obituary from Legacy.com HERE.

According to Legacy.com, Burkard is survived by his long-term companion Ron Hicks of San Diego, his dearest friend of 50 years and subject of his deepest affection, Gloria Tomita, his sisters Mary Rouse of Germantown, WI and Delores Bykowski of Mequon, WI, and brother Carl Burkard of Skokie, IL and their families.

Following the news of Burkard's passing, many community members expressed their condolences and shared memories on social media. We have compiled some of those sentiments below.

From The ALL MAN Team:

You might not recognize this man, but he was the visionary, the “international” man of mystery, who created the infamous International Male catalog we all know and love. His name was Gene Burkard. And it is with a heavy heart today that we announce his passing. He drifted off last night in his San Diego home surrounded by people who loved him, leaving the men in our world with a lot more color, style and self-expression.
It is a great privilage of ours as filmmakers to be able to tell the International Male Story, in part, through Gene’s own words. We were lucky enough to spend two days interviewing him, along with several lunches and dinners in which we were welcomed into the IM Family. This is something that we are forever grateful for.
In celebrating his life, we hope his story will help inspire others to pursue their passions, push boundaries, and remember to laugh along the way. You’re marvelous, Gene!
With affection,
The ALL MAN Team

From Brian Bazinet:

Gene Burkard you will me missed by so many! You were an amazing friend and beautiful person that did so much for people! RIP my friend, you are going to be missed. My heart is with you Ron. Here for you and anything you need.
From Nicole Murray-Ramirez (commemorating the recent passing of Center founder George Murphy, as well as Burkard):

GEORGE MURPHY & GENE BURKARD .....When the history of the SAN DIEGO LGBTQ HISTORY is written it will indeed include the names of LGBTQ icons GEORGE and GENE. If you look up the word: GENTLEMEN in the Dictionary you will see both of there pictures. They were two gentle giving souls who loved there Coummity and help build it to what it is today.....in so many ways they devoted much of there lifes to our Coummity and the advancement of LGBTQ Civil Rights. I met both GENE and GEORGE in the early 1970s.....GEORGE was like a GAY Hippie activist and help start and maintain the LGBTQ Coumminty CENTER. GENE well I remember when he first showed me his first male underwear and his idea of what became INTERNATIONAL MALE....we all thought he was crazy!! These two men never said no to me and so many others who requested there help for our LGBTQ orgazinations....AIDS Agencies.....Civil Rights Organizations..... Political candidates etc. My heart is broken at the lost of my two fellow brothers of the STONEWALL GENERATION.  ......there decades of friendship. I will always cherish and honor.....and We will fight on in there names til we achieve full LGBTQ EQUALITY.

From David Myers:

Thank you Gene Burkard for all you’ve done for so many. I appreciate all you did for me. You will be missed.

From Courtney Ray:

I am heartbroken to hear that Gene Burkard, passed away yesterday. One of the good ones. My heart goes out to Ron. 

At the request of the family, those who wish to make memorial contributions can do so to Mama's Kitchen, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, and St. Vincent de Paul.