A native of Baton Rouge, Syl passed away on October 11, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. Born November 7, 1936, Sylvia was the oldest daughter of Sidney James and Willie Christine Davis Sullivan. After graduating from Istrouma High School in 1954, she married her childhood sweetheart, Gene Duke, and began a life th…read more
A native of Baton Rouge, Syl passed away on October 11, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. Born November 7, 1936, Sylvia was the oldest daughter of Sidney James and Willie Christine Davis Sullivan. After graduating from Istrouma High School in 1954, she married her childhood sweetheart, Gene Duke, and began a life that will be cherished by all those who loved and have been inspired by her.
Starting her career in an advertising agency, Syl later worked with Governor John McKeithen for eight years and the Louisiana State Senate as Chief Administrative Officer for 23 years – but it was her commitment to her family and community that will be an indelible legacy. During her demanding career and until her passing, Syl tirelessly contributed her time, ideas, and energy to a number of community organizations.
For the less fortunate among us she served on the Board of Directors of the Iris Domestic Violence Center, helped start the prisoner trustee program providing societal re-entry work opportunities for inmates, on the Board of the Baton Rouge Regional Eye Bank, and served as a trained volunteer for Prevent Child Abuse in Louisiana – at one point earning their “volunteer of the year” award. For better government she served on the Board of the National Conference of State Legislators, helped secure initial funding for the Louisiana Center for Women and Government as well as serving on its Board of Directors, and even declined when approached to run for the State Senate – because she could do more as a private citizen than with “only one vote” on issues as a public official. For a brighter community she helped bring the Hot Air Balloon Festival to Baton Rouge, worked with the Louisiana Historical Society, Magnolia Cemetery Restoration, Old Governors’ Mansion, Old State Capital, and supported the development of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. For more opportunities for women, Syl served on the Louisiana Task Force for the Talent Bank of Women under two governors and joined former U.S. Senator John Breaux to work on his Women’s Advisory Committee. For LSU there were so many things – founding member of the Bengal Belles, volunteer for the Women’s Gymnastics and the Women’s Golf teams, countless hours spent volunteering at University Laboratory School on the Grandparents Committee and in her grandchildren’s classrooms, as well as providing financial support to the university with her husband, Gene, in areas such as a professorship in the College of Human Sciences and Education and funding a scholarship in the College of Engineering.
Sylvia was a member of First United Methodist Church of Baton Rouge and a life-long member of the Order of the Eastern Star. She was preceded in death by her parents, an infant brother, Roy, and her younger brother Sidney James Sullivan, Jr.
As the matriarch of her large family, she is survived by her devoted husband of 64 years, Alton Eugene Duke. She was a model wife, mother, and grandmother who greatly exceed the definition in Proverbs 31:10-31 – truly valued at a price far above rubies; three sons, Stacy and wife Rickie, Steve and wife Barbara, Stuart, and her daughter-in-law Anne Duke; five grand-daughters Dr. Taylor Duke Deutsch and husband Carter Deutsch, Leighton Duke, Haley Duke Babb and husband J.D. Babb, Heather Duke Pocic and husband Ethan Pocic, and Hannah Duke, three grandsons, Hunter, William and Zachary; and three great-grand-daughters Harper and Lottie Babb and Ellie Pocic.
She is also survived by her loving sister Sue and husband Terry Howes, brothers in law Dale Duke and Johny Howard, sister-in-law Marjorie Joyce Poston Sullivan; nieces, Ashley and husband Christian True, Laura Gail Sullivan, and Donna-Sue and husband Jude Dugas; four nephews, Sidney and wife Wendy Wall, Kelly and wife Isabel Sullivan, Sidney and wife Pam Sullivan, and David Sullivan, and her “sisters-of-the heart” Debra Russell, Tanya Hooks, and Beverly Walton, along with many other close family and friends.
Sylvia’s family wishes to extend sincere thanks and appreciation to the entire medical team at Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center who went overboard in providing compassionate care to her over the past few weeks.
To prevent the spread of this dreaded disease, the funeral service will be limited to immediate family. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Iris Domestic Violence Center at stopdv.org or PO Box 52809, Baton Rouge, La. 70892.
Sylvia was fiercely loyal, generously loving, and exceedingly kind – and as she always said in the face of any challenge – “this too shall pass” – and when it does – the family will hold in 2021 a celebration of her incredible, memorable, well-lived, well-loved life. Say not in grief that she is no more, but live thankfulness that she was.hide