Sybil K. Dukehart, 87, began horse program for disabled

November 12, 2005|By JACQUES KELLY | JACQUES KELLY,SUN REPORTER

Sybil Kane Dukehart, an equestrian who founded a program for the disabled to compete in horse-drawn carriage riding events, died in her sleep Tuesday at her home, Shoulderbone Farm, near Jarrettsville. She was 87.

Born Sybil Kane Williams in New York City, she attended the Chapin School in Manhattan and St. Timothy's School in Stevenson. As a young woman she studied under musician Carl Ulrich Schnabel and played the piano throughout her life.

After her 1942 marriage to Dr. James Patton Miller, she returned to the Baltimore area where her husband, a Johns Hopkins Medical School associate professor of orthopedics, treated knee injuries for members of the Baltimore Colts, among his many patients. He died in 1959.

They raised Angus cattle, Suffolk sheep and Welsh mountain ponies on their Harford County farm. She rode in point-to-point and timber races and hunted with the Elkridge-Harford Hounds.

In 1965, she married Edward Comegys Dukehart, a real estate broker and partner in the Walker Wilson Travel Agency. He died in 1989.

About 30 years ago, Mrs. Dukehart started driving teams of her ponies in equestrian events. Attired in feathered hats, tailored suits and a long driving apron, she drove a four-in-hand at Fair Hill in Cecil County and Winterthur in Delaware.

In 1985 she drove her team along Washington's Pennsylvania Avenue in President Ronald Reagan's second inaugural parade.

She was invited to judge events at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in England and there she observed classes for disabled people who competed in carriages designed to accommodate wheelchairs.

At her own expense, she imported a carriage and founded United States Driving for the Disabled, a nonprofit organization that continues to promote the sport. The organization is located in Georgetown, Ky.

"Her group brought a lot joy to a lot of people," her daughter Victoria B. Miller of Jarrettsville said yesterday.

"I think all of us get a great kick out of what can be accomplished by handicapped people who have been dependent on others to push them in a wheelchair," Mrs. Dukehart told a Sun reporter in 1992. "Suddenly they find they can drive a pony carriage around cones on an obstacle course and do circles and serpentines. They can do something that many able-bodied people can't do, and it's a tremendous ego-booster."

Mrs. Dukehart maintained her lifelong interest in music and never gave up the Metropolitan Opera seats that had belonged to her grandmother. She played classical, show tunes and spirituals on the piano, sang with the Harford Chorus and attended Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Baltimore Opera Company performances.

A memorial service will be held at 5 p.m. today at St. James Episcopal Church, 3100 Monkton Road, Monkton.

Mrs. Dukehart is survived by three other daughters, Sybil M. Hebb of Glyndon, Jamie M. Kozumbo of Baltimore and Susan M. Knott of Monkton; a stepson, Edward C. Dukehart of Palm Beach, Fla.; a stepdaughter, Frances K. Dukehart of Denver, Colo.; 11 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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