NEW ORLEANS (BP)–After fighting for her life for four months, Retia Dukes died Monday from injuries sustained when she and her husband, Jimmy Dukes, were struck by a vehicle in April. She was 68.
The Dukeses were crossing the street from the main campus of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to the school’s Providence Guest House April 4 when hit.
The Orlando couple had been in New Orleans while Jimmy Dukes, director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s Theological Educational and Distance Learning Department, attended a New Orleans Seminary Extension Center directors’ meeting. In his role, Dukes also serves as a New Orleans Seminary professor and director of the seminary’s Orlando Hub at First Baptist Church of Orlando. He has worked in various roles at New Orleans Seminary since 1980, having joined the faculty in 1984.
Also involved in the ministry, Retia Dukes served in a number of positions at New Orleans Seminary, including administrative assistant at the North Georgia campus and to the vice president of development; and as secretary to the late president Landrum Leavell.
During the accident Retia Dukes experienced severe head trauma and underwent surgery for a brain hemorrhage upon arrival at the hospital. She remained in a coma for 21 days. After becoming conscious, she was transferred to a rehabilitation center. Her condition deteriorated over the Aug. 2 weekend when she was returned to the hospital’s intensive care unit. She died late Monday afternoon.
After suffering multiple broken bones, Jimmy Dukes recovered from most of his injuries and remained in New Orleans with his wife. They celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary while in the hospital.
Retia Dukes was born June 22, 1941, in Vardaman, Miss. Survivors include her sons, Jason Dukes, pastor of Westpoint Fellowship Church in Windermere, Fla., and Erik Dukes, a family practitioner in Booneville, Miss.
Jason Dukes reported details of her four-month fight for life on the website www.CaringBridge.org. In his Aug. 4 update, Jason Dukes wrote:
“Erik, Dad, Mom’s sister, Dad’s brother, and I together stood around Mom’s bed Monday evening taking in the vacant body before us. Mom was gone. What remained was the shell of a woman whose beauty was stunning and whose compassion was life-changing. Both have been affirmed over the last four months of a journey that still seems a bit surreal and unbelievable to me.”
John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, called Retia Dukes, “a quality, quiet and gentle lady in every way. She was very supportive of her husband and his ministry.”
“She gave her life to the ministry and her family,” Sullivan said. “We will miss her very much.”
New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley said Retia Dukes was “a living illustration of the kindness, gentleness and graciousness of God.”
“People don’t come more precious than Retia Dukes,” Kelley said. “All of us who had the privilege of knowing her will miss her greatly.”
The Dukeses have been “backbones of this institution for many years,” Kelley added. “We watched their sons grow up and become outstanding young men. It is a family all Southern Baptists would take to their heart.
“I hope all will join us in praying for their comfort in a hard loss today that will become a great joy in their reunion at the feet of Jesus.”
The Dukeses plan two memorial services for Retia Dukes: Wednesday, Aug. 5 at 11 a.m. in the Leavell Chapel on the seminary campus (Visitation at 10 a.m.); and Tuesday, Aug. 18 in Orlando. Details will be forthcoming.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Jimmy and Retia Dukes Recovery Fund c/o NOBTS, 3939 Gentilly Boulevard, New Orleans, La., 70126, or by calling 800-662-8701 (ext 3252).
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention.