LiHong "Linda" Burdick spun a rare talent into a successful business.
For 30 years, the master seamstress operated Lotus Cleaners & Tailors in Eden Prairie, tending to customers' formalwear. Burdick could stitch together an outfit — or a wedding dress — from scratch and developed an intimate knowledge of her loyal clientele.
"When people walked in, she knew who they were and she knew exactly how they wanted their shirts starched," said her son, Keith Bartram of Maple Grove.
Burdick, of Chaska, died Jan. 17 of complications from COVID-19. She was 72.
Born in Tainan, Taiwan, as the youngest of nine children, Burdick came of age during a time of great uncertainty in the region. At 21, while working in the cafeteria at a local Air Force base, she fell for an American GI stationed there during the Vietnam War. The young couple immigrated to the U.S. in the late '60s.
Burdick settled in Southbury, Conn., and had two children, before separating from her husband in 1984 — the same year Burdick relocated to Minnesota. She opened one of the first immigrant-owned businesses in Shady Oak Center, an Eden Prairie strip mall.
Burdick worked 72 hours a week, largely by herself, managing the store. Days sometimes ran so long that she slept on a mattress under the clothing conveyor belt. On weekends, her children helped run the cash register, but they were denied the use of a digital calculator so they learned to count back change by hand. Education always came first.
"She [told me], 'I moved here for you to have all these opportunities. You need to take advantage of whatever opportunity falls in your path," said her daughter, FayeLin Bartram, an associate professor at the University of Iowa. "As an adult, I look back and appreciate how much she pushed me."
By 2014, business casual had largely replaced suit-and-tie culture, so Burdick opted to sell Lotus Cleaners and retire. That provided more time for her numerous hobbies. Burdick loved painting, gardening, playing cards, watching Kung Fu movies and listening to "American Idol" star Clay Aiken. Relatives recall her infectious smile, intelligence and often blunt nature.
"You always knew where you stood with her," Keith Bartram said. "She wasn't the kind of woman you could bullshit."
In her later years, she learned new skills through community education classes. During quarantine, she took up line dancing from home.
In addition to her children, she is survived by her sister, Sue Gay of Eustis, Fla. Services will be held at a later date.
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648