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Retired Bishop Duecker dies in Fort Wayne

By Kathy Gilbert*
6:00 P.M. EDT Oct. 28, 2011

Retired United Methodist Bishop Robert Sheldon Duecker died Oct. 28 in Fort Wayne, Ind., after a long battle with cancer. He was 85.

The Rev. Roy A. Eaton of Fort Wayne said he and Duecker became good friends after the bishop retired. "From 1995 to today we spent every week together. There was a group of us who had lunch every Friday," Eaton said.

"He was a good preacher, administrator and a tremendous friend," Eaton said. "He knew he was dying, and the last time I saw him he said, 'I don't mind dying, but I dread the process.'"

Bishop Michael Coyner, Indiana Annual (regional) Conference, said Duecker had an "even more amazing ministry after his retirement."

Coyner said Duecker served as interim pastor, headed a drive to raise funds for Africa University and was honorary chair of the conference's camping ministry. A residence hall at Africa University, the United Methodist college in Mutare, Zimbabwe, was dedicated in his honor.

"I visited him a number of times and recently in hospice," Coyner said. "He was ready to go, and we are grateful he had a peaceful passing."

The North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church elected Duecker a bishop in 1988 and assigned him to the Chicago Area.

Duecker was ordained an elder in the former North Indiana Conference by Bishop Richard C. Raines in 1953. He served as an associate pastor of Kokomo Grace and as pastor at Dyer, Muncie-Gethsemane, Hartford City, Warsaw-First, Fort Wayne-Simpson and Muncie-High Street United Methodist churches. He also served as North Indiana Annual (regional) Conference council director from 1973 to 1977 and as Fort Wayne District superintendent from 1977 to 1982.

Duecker was elected delegate to four sessions of The United Methodist Church's General Conference, the denomination's lawmaking body, and to six sessions of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

He was the author of several articles and of one book, "Tensions in the Connection," published by Abingdon in 1983.

Duecker was named a "Sagamore of the Wabash" by Indiana Gov. Robert Orr in September 1988. The award recognizes Indiana citizens who have made outstanding contributions to the state.

He and Marjorie Louise Clouse were married in 1948 and celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this year. Other survivors include a daughter, Cristine Holman of Fort Wayne; and three brothers: Heyman of Marion, Ind.; Ronald of Wooster, Ohio; and Dennis of Medina, Ohio; three grandchildren, Carrie Haney of Atlanta, Robert Haney of Morristown, N.J.; and Lori Haney of Fort Wayne; and a great-granddaughter, Jaden Housman of Fort Wayne. He was preceded in death by a son, the Rev. Philip Lee, in 2000, and by two brothers, Sherrod and Victor.

A memorial service will be Nov. 5 at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, where he served as bishop-in-residence after his retirement as bishop of the Chicago Area in 1996.

Memorial contributions can be made to The Bishop R. Sheldon and Marjorie L. Duecker Scholarship Fund of Africa University, c/o United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, Tenn., 37203-0007, or to First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, 300 East Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, Ind., 46802. Condolences to the family can be sent to Cristine Holman, 7614 Hermitage Place, Fort Wayne 46815.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the Young Adult Content team at United Methodist Communications.

News media contact: Kathy Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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