Friends, family remember Dukes as 'miraculous person'

Zadel Dukes

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Emma Gresham.

Zadel Dukes was a miraculous person who defied science, served many young people and loved her church.

She lived with a ruptured aorta for two years before passing away at University Hospital May 4 at the age of 83, said her niece, Lola Russell.

Dukes was born in Millen, Ga., on Aug. 13, 1929, the eldest of Paul and Julia Jones’ five daughters.

Her heart had always given her trouble. In 1975, she received a pig valve and was given about 10 years to live. Instead she outlived her cardiologist, Russell said.

“She was just a miraculous person,” she said.

Though Dukes trained as a cosmetologist early in life, she spent 15 years working with children at the Youth Development Center, 15 years as a dorm mother at Paine College and another 10 years as a dorm mother at Boggs Academy in Keysville, Ga.

Her sister, Emma Gresham, said Dukes was loving but firm to the children and young adults in her care. Many of them had been in trouble or were almost homeless, and she knew how to talk to them. She often encouraged them to participate in leadership activities, and many returned later to express appreciation for Dukes’ influence in their lives.

“She was one of what I call a wise woman, a woman who was very kind,” Gresham said.

Dukes also ran a personal care home for disabled veterans for 11 years.

Gresham described her as a woman of great faith. Dukes joined Miles Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1952 and served as missionary president for 15 years. She was active in the Stewardess and Stewards for many years, and became the first chairperson of the Board of Stewards.

In 1984, she took the trip of a lifetime when she went to the Holy Land, coordinated and paid for by another sister, Rubye Jones.

Even when she could no longer attend church, she continued to send her financial support.

“You would think some people would give up on living at a certain stage in life, but she never did,” Russell said. “Even with her illness, she didn’t complain.”

Dukes is survived by her children, Dwellie (Ann) Hynes Jr. of Augusta and Kathy (Robert) Hynes Roberson, Stone Mountain, Ga.; stepchildren Emory J. (Linda) Elder Sr., Meneta (James) Brown; Eva (Lamar) Johnson; Brenda Robinson, and Willie Ed (Betty) Robinson Jr.; a grandson, Dwellie Roberson of Stone Mountain; 18 step-grandchildren, 42 step-great-grandchildren; and one step-great-great-grandchild.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at Miles CME Church.

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