Mary Elliott Duke, 78, of Jackson, Calif. passed away from breast cancer peacefully at home, Friday, January 25, 2013. She was born April 9, 1934 in Lon, N.M. where her parents, William B. Elliott and Freda Bartlett Elliott were homesteading after leaving Oklahoma.
She is survived by one daughter, Heather D. Duke Vail; son-in-law, Michael S. Vail; and two beloved grandchildren, Alex and Heather Claire. She leaves behind many adoring nieces; nephews; and her beloved sister-in-law and faithful friend and caregiver, Janet Duke. She was preceded in death by her brother, Raymond Elliott; and her sister, Ruth Hansen.
After their brief time in Lon and a brief time in Wasco, Calif., Mary's family finally settled in Ashland, Ore., where she attended elementary school, high school, and college. In Ashland she met Stanley D. Duke of Arizona, and married him in 1957. They lived in Maryland, Massachusetts, and eventually the San Francisco Bay Area where Heather was born in 1963. Although divorced in 1965, their friendship, love, and respect for each other remained strong to the end of her days. It was through Stan that Mary had the opportunity to live the last 13 years in beautiful Jackson surrounded by cows.
In 1976, she returned to Ashland to finish college. She received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Southern Oregon State College in 1977, and went on to teach dyslexic children for many years in Eagle Point, Ore. Mary was an amazing teacher who changed children's lives forever. Many of her students kept in contact with her for the rest of her life. Throughout the 1980s, while teaching in Oregon, she hosted many exchange students from Mexico. These students were like her real sons and daughters, and they all called her Mom or Mama. She had a huge influence in their lives and they all loved her very much. In the 1990s she moved back to the Bay Area, where she finally became a Grandma.
Mary moved to Jackson in 2000 where she soon became a hospice volunteer. She was a born caregiver with a servant's heart. She helped many people while volunteering for hospice, but eventually her cancer made interacting with patients no longer possible. She began volunteering at the hospice thrift store where she became a beloved, familiar presence. For the past four years, she had been hosting the Daneri Bereavement Support Group in her home. Many found her home a peaceful, comforting place to come when they needed it most, and many considered her a friend.
Mary loved to sing and had a beautiful soprano voice. She loved to play games, read and travel, but most of all she loved being a mother and grandma. Mornings would find her reading her well-worn Bible while drinking tea. She was an independent, hard-working woman who was always ready to help anyone in any way that she could. Her wit and humor will be missed by all who knew her. She was the best mother, friend, and grandmother with whom anyone could ever be blessed.
There will be a memorial service at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, February 16, 2013, at Daneri Mortuary, 415 Broadway, Jackson, Calif. Her favorite charities were Hospice of Amador County, Jackson, Calif.; and Medford Gospel Mission, Inc., P.O. Box 1172, Medford, OR 97501.