Patrick Isaac Duke

My grandfather passed last February. He lived an impressive life and left behind a large loving family. Throughout his years, Paddy lead by example and was truly the patriarch of our family.

I’m thankful for the last trip we took together in 2010 to Montreal to catch a Habs game and eat lots of smoked meat. As a child I remember us both falling asleep watching Hockey Night in Canada. Occasionally I’d make it to the second game. And I was often in awe of his endless skills. Once, leaving Red Island in Placentia Bay, the fog had rolled in thick and seas became choppy. Using just a compass to navigate for the better part of an hour, I saw no sign of land until we were well inside our home harbour.

The following article written by my aunt Cathy will be in today’s Globe & Mail under Lives Lived.


Husband, father, grandfather. Born June 8, 1928, in Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay, Nfld. Died Feb. 27, 2011, in St. John’s of complications from diabetes, aged 82.

Patrick Isaac Duke, better known as Paddy, was one of seven children of Isaac and Sara Duke. His father, a Grand Banks schooner captain, awaited his birth before sailing to Cape St. Mary’s to fish. At 15, Paddy started fishing with his father, sharing the call of the icy North Atlantic.

 Tragedy affected Paddy deeply. He lost his mother to tuberculosis in 1934 and his brother, Maurice, to drowning in 1943.

 He excelled in school. He boarded at St. Bonaventure’s College in St. John’s, then at All Hallows College in Dublin, Ireland, where he studied for the Catholic priesthood. Unable to go home for the summer, Paddy often visited his Irish classmates. One year, cycling through France with fellow seminarians, he translated for the group, speaking French and Latin. A summer of riding his one-speed Raleigh resulted in legs so muscular that he could no longer wear long pants.

After completing 3½ years of his program, Paddy decided that the priesthood was not his calling. In 1951, he had the rare experience of applying for a Canadian passport to return home, as Newfoundland had since joined Canada.

Paddy had a successful career on the U.S. naval base in Argentia, Nfld. His appointment to the most senior civilian position required special permission from the U.S. government because he was a Canadian citizen.

In 1955, Paddy married Kitty Murray. They had four children: Pauline, Cathy, Nora and Patrick. While raising his young family in Fox Harbour, Nfld., Paddy became a major influence on the town’s growth and development. He helped to set up the first town council and became the first mayor. He and three others signed a personal bank loan for a fire truck, becoming Fox Harbour’s first volunteer firemen. He led efforts to establish a softball association and became its president.

Moving to St. John’s in 1967, Paddy had a successful career with the federal government. He retired in 1990 upon learning that Kitty had leukemia. She passed away in 1991. Paddy treasured memories of his first love, but went on to share his love of life with his second wife, Agnes King, whom he married in 1993.

Paddy always made time for what was important to his family: camping trips, Santa Claus parades, Sunday dinners and long drives. Working on a car, lowering a jigger into the North Atlantic and watching Jean Béliveau score a goal for the Montreal Canadiens were some of his life’s small pleasures.

An exceptionally caring man and respected community leader, Paddy quietly looked after others’ interests and well-being and instilled these values in the people around him. He was an effective manager, community leader, relentless volunteer, Good Samaritan and masterful storyteller.

Cathy Duke is Paddy’s daughter.

Globe & Mail


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