Henriette Duke, 89, active in musical organizations

April 27, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Henriette Duke, whose love of music led her to leadership roles with several of Baltimore's most prominent musical organizations, died April 12 of pancreatic cancer at her estate in Green Spring Valley. She was 89.

Mrs. Duke had been involved for nearly 60 years in many capacities with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. She she had been a director, fund-raiser and had been president of the Women's Association of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

She also was a past president of the Baltimore Music Club and the Maryland Federation of Music Clubs.

Mrs. Duke was a former treasurer of the Baltimore Opera Guild and president of the Women's Board of the Peabody Institute and chaired the school's Music in Hospitals program.

She received many awards for fund raising from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and National Federation of Music Clubs.

"She worked so hard all of her life to improve the cultural life of Baltimore," said her daughter, Elayne Duke, president of the Rosa Ponselle Foundation.

Mrs. Duke also had been vice president of the West Baltimore General Hospital Auxiliary and had compiled 1,839 volunteer hours at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson.

She was a past matron of the Order of the Eastern Star and held many positions in the local and state Order of the Eastern Star.

Because of the proximity of her estate, Windsor, to that of Metropolitan Opera Company star Rosa Ponselle, who lived at Villa Pace, the women became friends in 1946 and remained close until Miss Ponselle's death in 1981.

"They were very close, so close, in fact, that Miss Ponselle came for dinner most every night," Ms. Duke said. "Down the driveway she'd come in her black Packard automobile, and then she'd poke her head in the kitchen door and ask, 'What's for dinner?' It was more than a friendship; they were like two sisters," Ms. Duke said.

According to Ms. Duke, it didn't take much coaxing to get Miss Ponselle to sing.

"Mother would go in the sun room and would sit down at the piano and say, 'Rosa, I want to play something for you,' and soon after she'd start singing," Ms. Duke said.

Mrs. Duke founded and was the first president of the Rosa Ponselle Museum Associates, which was created after the diva's death.

Mrs. Duke was born Henriette Snyder on North Caroline Street in Baltimore and was a 1925 graduate of Eastern High School. In 1923, she and Milton Duke, a certified public accountant, were married. He died in 1973.

Services were private.

In addition to her daughter, survivors include a son, Stanley D. Duke of Hilton Head, N.C.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Peabody Preparatory Department's Vocal Scholarship Fund.

Pub Date: 4/27/96

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