Monday, May 14, 2007

Stories of two Utah Democrats

Heber residents mourn 'old-timer'
Deseret Morning News, Friday, May 11, 2007

Mission president dies in Uganda car crash

By Sara Israelsen and Carrie A. Moore
Deseret Morning News

HEBER CITY — Residents are mourning the loss of a businessman, civic contributor and religious leader who was killed in a traffic accident Thursday while serving as president of the Uganda Kampala Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"We're gonna miss him," said Heber business owner Ren Provost, who grew up with President Ralph L. Duke. "He'll leave a big hole in the community."

President Duke, 57, and his wife, Kim, were returning from the Entebbe Airport, presumably to the mission office, around 6:30 a.m. when the accident occurred, according to Elder Chris Fee, executive secretary in the LDS Church's Africa Southeast Area office.

In an interview, Fee said the couple had just taken four missionaries to the airport — two of whom had finished mission and two others who were leaving to serve missions elsewhere.

Sister Duke was injured but has been treated and released from a hospital, Elder Fee said. There were no other passengers in the Dukes' vehicle at the time of the accident, he said.

Details of what caused the accident were not immediately available.

"We pray the spirit of the Lord will be with Sister Duke, her family, friends and the missionaries in the Uganda Kampala Mission during this difficult time," church spokesman Scott Trotter said.

Word of the accident spread quickly throughout the city of Heber, where the Dukes had been lifelong residents.

"It's a shock for everybody," said Steve Provost, assistant store director of the Smith's grocery store. "He's one of the old-timers."

A grocer and rancher by trade, President Duke grew up on a farm in Heber and worked in local grocery stores before buying a failing grocery store and turning it into Duke's IGA — one of the most successful businesses in town, residents said.

Steve Provost worked with President Duke at his IGA store before it was sold to Smith's about 10 years ago.

"He always had time for you," said life-long resident Vida Applegate, who spent many of her 30 years in the grocery business working with President Duke. "He was interested in what you were doing.
"He had great integrity," she continued. "He was honest with those he knew and associated with."

Ren Provost said he got to know President Duke best while the two served with Mike Kohler as Wasatch County commissioners from 1999 to 2003.

"He was honest and he told it like it was," he said during an interview in the office of his Wasatch Auto Supply store on Main Street. "He spoke his opinion. I'll miss Ralph."

Kohler said President Duke enjoyed working on the community's master plan and helping to ensure Heber would be carefully taken care of as it grew.

"He was very confident and had a lot of ideas," said Kohler, who is still a member of the now Wasatch County Council. "He loved to work with people. His people skills made him a good businessman."

There's a long list of Dukes in the Heber phone book, which includes R.L. and Mike Duke, two of the couple's four children who are firefighters for the Wasatch County Fire District. Another son, Spencer, is a sergeant with the Utah Highway Patrol.

Spencer Duke had a passport and could quickly book a flight to Kampala on Thursday to be with their mother and help arrange to bring their father's body home, said Mike Duke.

"She's coming home," Mike Duke said. "As soon as we can get her here, she's coming home."

A man of deep and simple faith, President Duke "was just a giant of a man for everybody that knew him," R.L. Duke said with emotion in his voice. "He was an example to the whole community. He just possessed all the qualities that we all strive to attain. He wasn't fake — people loved him. He loved the gospel and the church and devoted his whole life to that cause, to service."

President Duke had served three LDS missions: one in Australia as a young man; a second with his wife, overseeing the Church Education System in Johannesburg, South Africa; and his most recent assignment as mission president in Uganda.

President Duke had only been home five months and had just been called as a bishop when he was asked by church leaders to serve in Uganda, R.L. Duke said.

"They had two weeks to prepare to take the assignment, and they did it," he said. "They didn't hesitate."

That's how President Duke responded to any call to serve, his sons said.

"Where he was and what he was doing say more than I can," Mike Duke said, choking back tears. "That's what means the most to me. He did whatever he was asked to do as far as serving. He didn't care what the sacrifice was."

"Words can't describe how great a man he was," R.L. Duke said.

The couple raised their children on a ranch, and President Duke loved spending time with his horses and hunting elk and deer, said Steve Provost.

But most of all, he was devoted to his family of four children, their spouses and nine grandchildren — all of whom live in Wasatch County.

"He loved his grandchildren. He would always take his grandkids on little trips and invite them over for a sleepover or take them for a treat. They were the light of his life," R.L. Duke said, noting their last three grandchildren have been born since the Dukes began serving in July 2005.

"We're hanging in there," Mike Duke said. "We're just grateful that we know what we know. Our faith will get us through it."

A member of the Valley Hills 1st Ward, Heber Utah North Stake, President Duke was a former counselor in the stake presidency. He was born in 1949 in Heber to William Howard and Ellen Child Duke. He is survived by his wife, sons R.L., Spencer and Mike, and a daughter, Katie.

Elder William Parmley, a member of the Africa Southeast Area Presidency, has been sent to Uganda and will assume leadership of the mission, Elder Fee said.

Mission President Ralph Duke and Sister Kim Duke, residents of Heber City, were serving in Kampala, Uganda.Deseret Morning News Graphic

Explosives used to vandalize Park City councilman's mail box
Last Update: May 9, 2007 6:40 PM

Story by:
Buddy Blankenfeld

He expected some people might not like some of the decisions he has to make as a Park City councilman but not enough to destroy his property. Jim Hier has had his mailbox vandalized three times.

The first time knocked down by a car on April 29. Remnants were found in his neighbor’s yard and pieces of the car were left behind after hitting a decorative rock.

A week later, explosives were used, some flying into Hier’s yard catching his grass on fire. "If this was two months from now we could've had a serious fire here," Hier said.

The third strike happened just last Friday. Hier's neighbor heard the blast. "I was in the house about 9:30 and heard a big explosion. My wife said, 'Gosh, that sounds like a bomb'," remembered Gary Hennings.

The charge, from an M-80 type firework (equal to a quarter stick of dynamite) blew Hier's mailbox apart. Pieces were found all over his neighborhood.

"I don't think my mailbox has offended anybody," Hier said. While he jokes about it he is also worried. "If I'm away and my wife is by herself, just the thought that somebody, it's a pretty good size. It's about the size of a trailer hitch ball and for somebody to be doing something like that, it concerns me," he said.

Police have stepped up patrols to about six a day that drive by Hier’s home. They also have recovered pieces of a car that were left behind from the first incident. Investigators are trying to determine the car's make and model using the car parts.

The ATF has also been called in to analyze remnants of the explosive. Police said, depending on the motive, charges could range from mischief to terrorism.

"I can not think of anything controversial enough to want to blow up my mailbox, that's for sure," said Hier. His mailbox was blown into several pieces but he was able to snap those pieces back together again.

Bringing a little levity to the situation, he said, "This mailbox has been blown up twice so if anybody is anticipating getting their mailbox blown up I suggest they go to Home Depot and buy a cheap plastic mailbox because it goes back together."


Anonymous said...

Back in the 70's there were a couple of people (Steve Hammon for one) blowing up the mailbox of a political figure who they thought was discrased. Their actions were a discusting. I didn't find out about it until the 80's when hsi wife told many people. I hope you catch your criminals.

Anonymous said...

oops mispelled disgraced. sorry