Ray E. Duke

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 15, 2004

Ray E. Duke, 86, of Suffolk, Virginia died Wednesday, July 14, 2004.

Mr. Duke was born in 1917 in Carrsville, Virginia to Kelly Henry Duke and Maggie Eley Duke.

He was preceded in death by his parents and by his only child, R. Eley Duke, Jr.

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He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Alma Cross Duke; his sister, Audrey Duke Butler and her husband Wilson; his daughter-in-law, Lydia Duke Hevener and her husband, Bill; and his grandchildren, R. Eley Duke, III and Kelly Duke Drewnowski and her husband, Bartek.

Mr. Duke was President and owner of Duke Automotive Corp. in Suffolk until his recent retirement.

A self-made businessman, he purchased Brothers Oldsmobile-Cadillac, Corp. in 1969 after having been employed there as a sales agent and then as General Manager since 1959.

After renaming the business Duke Oldsmobile-Cadillac, Mr. Duke, his son, and their small staff labored to create an automobile dealership that specialized in the finest customer service and the highest ethical standards.

His success in that endeavor is evident in the many quality awards he received throughout the years including the Oldsmobile Elite award, the Cadillac Master Dealer Award, and the Buick Best in Class award.

In 1996, Duke Oldsmobile-Cadillac was awarded the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award for both Suffolk and all of Hampton Roads.

In 1990, at an age in which most people are considering retirement, Mr. Duke was expanding the business.

He acquired the Pontiac, Buick, and GMC franchises and in 1994 he acquired the Chevrolet franchise.

He was, at that time, the only dealer in eastern Virginia to hold every GM franchise in one location.

Mr. Duke was a member of Main Street United Methodist Church in Suffolk for 60 years; a Charter Member of the Methodist Men and a long-time member of the Men’s Bible Class.

He was a member of the Suffolk Rotary Club and a Paul Harris Fellow and he supported his community quietly and generously in many, many ways.

A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he loved his family and friends, his business, his cars, the Washington Redskins, and a good round of golf.

The family will receive friends from 7 to 8:30 pm on Thursday at R. W. Baker & Co.

Funeral Home & Crematory, 509 West Washington Street, Suffolk.

Memorial services will be conducted by Rev. Robert Parks on Friday, July 16th at 12:00 noon at Main Street United Methodist Church, 202 North Main Street in Suffolk with a reception in the social hall to follow immediately.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the R. Eley Duke, Jr. Memorial Garden at Main Street United Methodist Church, 202 North Main Street, Suffolk, VA