Frances Eleanor (Sullivan) Duke, a partner of love, a compassionate matriarch and dedicated educator died August 24rd, 2020 in the loving embraces of her family at her beloved Cape Cod home in West Harwich, MA at the age of 78 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
Fran was born on December 5, 1941 in Worcester, MA to George and Frances Sullivan and grew up in Vernon Hill, Worcester, MA. She graduated from Newton College of the Sacred Heart majoring in English in 1963 and earned her Master’s in Education degree at Worcester State College in 1965.
Fran will be remembered forever and hold a special place in the hearts of her lifelong love and husband of 55 years, John Duke; her children Kathleen Barthelmes and her husband Robert Barthelmes of California, MD, John F. Duke Jr. and his wife Heather N. Duke of East Greenwich, RI and Elizabeth McDonnell and her husband John McDonnell of Bourne, MA; her grandchildren, RJ, Zach and Kate Barthelmes, Johnny, Tori and Amanda Duke and Kylie, Ella and Nate McDonnell; her daughter-in-law Liz Barthelmes and soon to be daughter-in-law Karoline Barkley; her brothers George F. Sullivan Jr. and his wife Marilynn and Thomas Sullivan and his wife Kathy all of Chatham; her in-laws Maureen Duke of Shrewsbury, Francis Duke and his wife, Jessica of Lenox and Sr. Mary Duke of Brighton, and Thomas Duke and his wife, Roberta of Holden; along with her many nieces and nephews.
We believe Fran has joined in eternal life with God as well as her parents, her loving aunts and uncles, her brother in law William E. Duke Sr. and sister-in-law, Margaret Duke.
A Lifelong Partner of Love
Fran met the love of her life in 1963 at Wednesday night dance club at the Bancroft Club. Fran married John on July 17, 1965 at St. Mary’s Church in Shrewsbury by her cousin Fr. Peter Scanlon (deceased) with cherished friends Mary Collamore, Lee O’Leary and Maureen McCarthy. Fran and John enjoyed a 37-day honeymoon across the USA with the highlight of being introduced on The Lawrence Welk Show dance floor. They moved into their first apartment in Worcester, MA and then bought their home of 36 years in Holden. In 2003, Fran and John moved into their retirement home in West Harwich where they loved nights of kitty whist and days at Grammie’s Pleasant Street beach. The devoted couple were always the first ones on the dance floor at any of life’s family events with a special display at her oldest grandchild’s wedding.
A Compassionate Matriarch
Fran raised and was a devoted mom to Kathy, Jay and Betsy and her adopted “out-laws” Rob, Heather and John. She cherished and doted on her nine grandchildren RJ, Zach, Kate, Kylie, Johnny, Ella, Tori, Nate, Amanda and preciously welcomed her daughter-in-law Liz and future daughter-in-law Karoline. She was thrilled to welcome her great-grandchild Lillie Grace. All her grandchildren “give me such joy and happiness and I hope they find comfort in the knowledge that I will be with God and will always be with them in spirit.” Fran was a volunteer for Bluebirds, Brownies, and Girl Scouts as well as dedicated provider of orange juice slices and an avid fan for all her kids’ youth soccer and softball games. She also volunteered as the assistant sports reporter for the Holden Landmark newspaper which covered the many youth activities of her children. Fran enjoyed spending summer vacations with her family down the Cape at Wychmere Harbor Beach Club. She prized family get togethers, large and small, with her immediate and extended family and friends, creating fond times ending in trips to Sundae School.
Her children fondly recall Mom reading countless novels, knitting treasures for members of her family, and enjoying her Mermaid’s swimming group. A final memory is mom ’s last puzzle that was partially completed and finished by her grandchildren during her final days.
A Dedicated Educator
Lastly, “Mrs. Duke” began her lifelong path as an educator teaching English and History at Chandler Street Junior High in Worcester. After marriage, Fran was a substitute teacher for the next seventeen years at Holden Junior High and Wachusett Regional High School while raising her family. In the seventh grade, her son fondly recalls his mom teaching at his school, Holden Junior High. Fran began teaching full-time again at St. Mary’s High School and Grammar School in 1984. She loved her St. Mary’s family of students, their families and her colleagues. Fran retired from teaching and school administration in 2003 to move to Cape Cod. However, her love of reading called her back to part time work when her sister-in-law introduced her to the owners of the Chatham, MA bookstore “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”
Family and friends will honor and remember Fran’s life by gathering for calling hours at Morris, O’Connor & Blute Funeral Home in Harwich Center on Wednesday, August 26th from 5pm to 7pm. A Mass will be celebrated on Thursday at 11:00am at Holy Trinity Church on 246 Main St, West Harwich, MA 02671. Burial will follow in Island Pond Cemetery in Harwich.
Memorials in Fran’s name may be made to Duke Family Scholarship of The Greater Worcester Community Foundation, 370 Main Street, Suite 650, Worcester, MA 01608 or greaterworcester.org to continue to support the education of college bound high school graduates from Worcester, Holden and West Harwich (in the hope that one of them may help research the cure for cancer).