OBIT-LaRae Duke

Oct. 3, 1946-Sept. 5, 2022

On Oct. 3, 1946, LaRae did something she’s tried not to do since … she arrived early – more than 2 months early – and weighed in at only 2 1/2 lbs. Her fighting spirit and determination became apparent when, after 63 days in an incubator, she was able to go home with her grateful parents: Eva Munns and Rulon Wade. LaRae’s early years were spent in Rexburg, Idaho, where she enjoyed the fame of being voted “The Happiest Healthiest Baby” at 1 year old, as well as being fondly introduced to all of her father’s friends as “my little blue blood.”

LaRae’s only sibling, Rex Wade, was born in 1952 and her father passed away unexpectedly at the end of that year, shortly after LaRae’s 6th birthday. She spent the remainder of her youth in Ashton, Idaho, and made happy memories riding all over town on her beloved horse, Coco.

LaRae was an honors student and upon graduation from high school she set her sights on furthering her education and seeing the world. After a semester at Rick’s College, she attended Church College of Hawaii (now BYU), and her love of the islands was born. This was followed by a six-month adventure in Europe with her girlfriends, an experience that introduced her to art, architecture, and history in such a profound way that she carried a bit of European style with her the rest of her life.

Junior year brought a new location of Utah State University (why not?) and proved pivotal when she was set up on a blind date with a handsome pre-med student named Dean Duke. She chose an evening out over studying more Shakespeare and the stars aligned.

They were engaged five months later and married on Sept. 15, 1967, in Ashton, Idaho (Sealed in the Salt Lake Temple in 1968). One week later, Dean started medical school at the University of Utah while LaRae began her senior year, graduating with a degree in Library Science and English. This was quickly put to use as a medical school librarian to support the newlywed couple.

LaRae’s itch for travel was satisfied when after 4 years in Salt Lake, Dean’s internship took them to Oahu, Hawaii, where they were blessed with their first child, Travis. Following their year in paradise, there were brief stops in San Antonio, Texas, and Pensacola, Florida, before moving to Kitzingen, Germany, for three years where their daughter Kirsten was born.

Denver, Colorado was next on the list and looked to be their final destination until a spring day in 1980 when, while visiting Dean’s parents in St. George, LaRae walked out onto the Bloomington golf course, put her thumbs in her pockets and declared, “This is the place.” The little family moved three months later and made St. George their home. As Dean’s practice grew, so did the family, adding a son, B.J., and a daughter, Jori.

LaRae loved the Southwest and truly bloomed in the desert. She helped manage her husband’s office for over 25 years, served in the church and community and had the best fall and Christmas decor you’ve ever seen. She loved the Jubilee of Trees, and the family has many fond memories of multiple trees lighting up their home for the holidays. She gave the best gifts, most heartfelt cards and notes – and no family gathering ever went without a lovely centerpiece on the table and a delicious dessert.

She and Dean shared a love of travel and spent many happy days exploring Europe, the beauty of the Southwest, and most of all their beloved Hawaii. They embraced Maui “No Ka’Oi”, built a home there and spent as much time as possible in the cool island breeze after Dean’s retirement. “Aloha Cousin!” was a favorite greeting of LaRae’s, and her island hospitality helped to create many sweet memories of sand, shells and sunsets with her kids and grandkids.

She is a beloved wife, mother and grandmother. She supported Dean in all he did and was the best conversationalist and travel companion. LaRae was a faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and enjoyed learning about and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. She taught her kids to value education and follow their dreams, to love animals and to read good books.

She was generous. She was a great supporter of all of her kids’ sports, performances and educational pursuits – always making them feel they were the best part of the show. She loved her grandchildren and spoiled them with M&M’s (happy pills), better toys than their parents gave them and sips from Grandma’s Diet Coke.

The end of LaRae’s life was destined to be much like the beginning and involved a fight for her life. After a stage 4 ovarian cancer diagnosis nearly five years ago – she battled and lived her life on her terms, traveling, celebrating, and once again defying the odds. Dean was constantly by her side as her loving and attentive caregiver. LaRae passed peacefully at home and surrounded by family on Sept. 5, 2022. Her determination and refusal to dwell on the negative will remain an example to all of her children and grandchildren. 

She chose to focus on the beautiful parts of life. She was more to each of us than we can ever put into words. She was ours, and she will be missed.

LaRae is survived by her husband Dean and her brother Rex; children Travis Duke, Kirsten Bethers (Dan), Brian Duke and Jori Christensen (Raine); 13 grandchildren and one great-grandson.

The family would like to recognize and thank Dr. Derrick Haslem and Dixie Hospice for their expertise and tender care. 

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10, at noon at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3519 Manzanita Road, St. George, Utah. A visitation will be held prior to services from 10:30-11:30 .am. A visitation will also be held on Friday, Sept. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the same location. The interment will take place at Tonaquint Cemetery, 1777 S. Dixie Drive, St. George, Utah. 

Arrangements are under the direction of Spilsbury Mortuary. Services will be streamed via Zoom; click here to access. 

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