George W. Burke Jr., 61, an official with the U.S. Public Health Service for 17 years before retiring in 1965 and an area resident since 1956, died of cancer Saturday at his home in Kensington.

Mr. Burke was born in Georgia and reared in Florida. He was a 1947 graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology. A year later, he earned a master's degree -- in civil engineering with a specialization in sanitary engineering and public health -- at the institute.

He joined the Public Health Service in 1948, working as an environmental engineer in Georgia, Florida, Illinois and Ohio before coming here in 1956 to work in the service's water pollution branch.

After retiring as a caption in the health service, he was technical services manager for the Water Pollution Control Federation, a professional group located in Washington, for 14 years before retiring a second time in 1979.

He was a diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.

Mr. Burke had been a resident of Montgomery County since 1956, and was a member of the Glenmont United Methodist Church in Wheaton.

He served with the Army in the Pacific during World War II.

Survivors include his wife, Edna Louise Burke, of Kensington; a daughter, Olivia Casandria Malone, of Frederick; a son, Marvin Hamilton Burke, of Chevy Chase; his mother, Rachel T. Burke, of St. Petersburg, Fla.; a sister, Martha B. Redcay, of Belleair, Fla.; two brothers, Charles W., of St. Petersburg, and John T., of Birmingham, Ala.; and one grandchild.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society.