Duke honored as First Citizen

Published 10:46 pm Friday, September 30, 2016

Members of the Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary Clubs gathered at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts to celebrate Lydia Duke on Thursday evening.

Duke, president of Duke Automotive Corp., was selected as this year’s First Citizen. She joins a notable list of honorees commended for their exceptional service to the local community.

Beginning at 6 p.m., more than 100 people convened on the second floor of the center for a social hour and eventually filed into the theater.

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Members of both Rotary clubs and Duke’s pastor exchanged comments during the ceremony.

“This evening is all about you,” said Rev. Myrtle Hatcher of Main Street United Methodist Church, as she held up a sign of Duke with the letter “U,” referencing Duke’s catchphrase.

Hatcher went on to describe Duke’s qualities using a variety of cutout masks of a lady, a lioness and an owl.

The lady represented Duke’s mannerisms and hospitality; the owl, her ability to learn how to effectively run a business; and the lion, her boldness and standards of excellence.

Duke, a Mississippi native, was raised in the code of southern hospitality. In addition, her parents instilled a strong work ethic and sense of empathy that over carried into her professional life, presenters said.

After the death of her husband, Eley Duke, she had to take over the reins of Duke Automotive Corp. — at the time it was Duke Oldsmobile-Cadillac Corp. Duke had no prior experience of the automotive field but was willing to learn the ropes and took off in stride.

She currently is one of 234 women nationwide serving as a General Motors dealer, which is about five percent of total GM dealers.

The lioness and the wise owl tie into her ability to have successfully led the business at a high standard for more than 25 years.

Duke’s company was named a Buick Best in Class Dealer for years and has received several customer satisfaction and sales awards.

She has been a member of the Suffolk Rotary Club for 20 years and also has served on several community boards and supported numerous local charities and school programs.

After the opening remarks, a video was shown that featured several loved ones and co-workers sharing their thoughts of Duke. The consensus was that Duke exhibited stellar leadership, compassion for others and dedication to service.

After accepting her award, Duke closed the ceremony with a few remarks.

She credited her faith with sustaining her during her years of business and community leadership. Also, she stressed the importance of building a positive reputation.

“The value of a local family business is valued by how much they value its community,” she said.