John Duke

Obituary of John Daniel Duke

Obituary of John Daniel Duke 1931-2022 After several weeks of hospice care that gave him the unique chance to say goodbye to his friends and loved ones, John Daniel Duke of Vilas passed away in his home on Monday, January 10, 2022 at the age of 90. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Dan grew up in Raleigh before earning a bachelor's degree in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill. After graduating from college, he enlisted in the army where he was assigned to the task of administering psychological tests to psychiatric patients at Fort Sam Houston, TX, and Fort Bragg, NC from 1954-1956, a rich learning experience for him. He then pursued his doctorate in psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill where he shifted from a clinical focus to more theoretical work in the field of social and general psychology. Dan was a model of the dream of finding work that you love. It was his interest in the topic that led him to build a career teaching and researching psychology. He first taught at Wofford College in SC from 1959-1962, where he also served as chair. From 1962-1968, he taught at Montana State University in Bozeman, including serving as acting chair before moving back to North Carolina to teach psychology at Appalachian State University from 1968-1993. Dan took pride in his teaching, and he won recognition as Teacher of the Year at both Montana State and Appalachian. He was awarded emeritus status in September, 1993. In addition to golf and classical music, Dan loved duplicate bridge, and this led him to develop what he called the Land Cruise Bridge Festivals. Held on the campus of Appalachian from 1984 to 1993, the program was a great success, growing from two weeks to ten weeks each summer. Best of all, it included the joy of teaching classes to students eager to learn just for the fun of it. Dan was always proud of the high number of students who came for two or more summers, including some from Mexico, Canada, Venezuela, England, and Saudi Arabia. He created and wrote teaching manuals for each of the classes, an endeavor that gave him the opportunity to articulate some of the more complicated bidding systems used in duplicate bridge. Those outside of the world of contract bridge may not be aware of the contributions Dan made or the way bridge gives people a space to engage with one another both intellectually and socially, a safe space to laugh together, mostly ignore political differences (but never rule disputes), and thrive in community. He was an avid bridge player and organizer. Starting in 1956, he worked as a bridge director for over fifty years. His leadership founded Unit 244 that serves 24 counties of northwest North Carolina, part of the American Contract Bridge League. He helped turn the High Country into a Mecca for bridge competition. He also traveled to provide bridge lessons for programs hosted in various cities across the United States. In his wife Susan Duke, whom he married in 2002, Dan found the love of his life and a kindred spirit who followed in his footsteps, playing, directing, and teaching bridge. Susan and Dan enjoyed many road trips, took part in many Elderhostel programs, and relished every chance to work as bridge teachers/directors on cruises around the world. Throughout his life, Dan was highly ethical, aiming to be honest with himself and with others—a trait worth treasuring. He was very critical of all that is unjust or alarming in the world, worrying for our democracy and about the threat of climate change, yet he never lost his ability to find joy in the moment. He felt a responsibility to pay attention to the world around him, to engage thoughtfully with various topics, yet he never took himself too seriously, and he encouraged others not to take themselves too seriously, either. He loved to joke around, some jokes more successful than others, and his humor was grounded in the belief that everyone has dignity and worth. Most of all, he believed that whenever possible, it helps to find reasons to laugh. Dan was preceded in death by his mother Martha Truss, father Robert Edwin Duke, brothers Robert Edwin Duke, Jr, and James Alan Duke, and his friend/ex-wife Donna Duke. He is survived by his beloved wife Susan Duke of Vilas, his daughter Cama Duke, son-in-law Frank Veno, grandchildren Annie, Joey, and Maggie of Boone; his son Miles Duke, daughter-in-law Cynthia Duke, grandchildren Alexandra and Elizabeth of Atlanta; his niece Celia Larsen and husband David and family of Northville, MI, and nephew John Carl Duke and wife Sandy and family of Myersville, MD; and sister-in-law Becky McDonough of Boone, niece Christy Powell and husband Stacey of Boone, nephew Seth Powell and wife Holly and family of Valle Crucis, niece Julie Palmer and wife Christy of Marion, Indiana, and niece Jenny Treon and husband Eric and family of Marion, Indiana. To honor Dan's love and respect for the women in his life, please consider a contribution to The Women's Fund of the Blue Ridge, 895 State Farm Road, Suite 403, Boone, NC 28607. A committal service will be held Saturday, January 29, 2022, at 2 pm at the Church of the Holy Cross in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. Online condolences may be shared with the Duke family at the website Austin & Barnes Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Duke family.
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