Diana Kaye Adkins Duty
March 18, 1950 - May 15, 2020
If you were lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner by my mom, Diana Kaye Adkins Duty, lord honey, I hope you weren’t late. If you were, then you surely saw the crinkle at the corner of her eye as she passed you the cornbread dressing. After a while she’d ask if you need more giblet gravy for the mashed potatoes, which she made with heavy whipping cream and 9 pounds of butter. After you revived from your accidental nap on the couch and commented how good the rosemary was on the turkey, she would tell you she grew it herself, then give you a wooden planter box she built, and the rosemary cutting to grow in it. Later she might have shown you the pearls she hand-knotted on silk for her next craft show. Maybe she gave you a skene of yarn and sat next to you, thigh to thigh, while showing you how to crochet, her lovely long fingers with long fingernails making the crochet needles click in and out of the string. If she really liked you, despite your having been late to dinner, she might have handwritten from memory the recipe to her mouthwatering cream cheese pound cake.
Born on March 18, 1950, in the coal town of Ashland, Kentucky, to Bunice Mays and William C. Adkins, she grew up in little towns in the hills and hollers of Eastern Kentucky, smackdab in the middle of rural Appalachia. A few years after they divorced, Bunice sent her to live with Bill and his new bride, Lula Beechie Blevins. All three of her parents precede her in death. She loved them and took care of each of them in their old age to the best of her ability and to the degree that the cantankerous old farts would allow. Her half-brother Morris Riley died as a young man and her stepbrother Lloyd Roger Thompson is still a badass at 75.
When she was 19 years old, dressed in a ridiculously stylish navy-blue pinstripe skirt suit, she married the handsome John Carmel Duty, whom she had known since she was kneehigh to a grasshopper. It being 1969 and her being a hairdresser, she had a voluminous, jet black beehive and he sported a slick pompadour.
She and dad had some terrific and tough seasons over 42 years. For instance, they divorced for a period of 5 years only to remarry each other, accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, and give up their heathen ways. At midlife they operated Tower Works, a company which for nearly 30 years erected and maintained communication towers all over the Southeast. Mom was equally comfortable in the kitchen running a mixer making sea foam candy as she was on a remote job site running a winch to pull a microwave dish a thousand feet up a tower so that dad, who had climbed the tower rung by rung, could install it. They road-tripped across the country many times, specialized in hobbies which required a massive collection of power tools, and cultivated an intricate language of inside jokes that made them look insane as they bent double laughing at themselves. They ministered in word, deed, and food to every hungry soul who wandered up to their table. She leaves behind 777 wicker baskets and a hoard of folks she fed, clothed, consoled, counseled, and buoyed on their way. Often with the simple message, Just Today. She took care of dad through his end stage cancer till he drew his last breath in her arms.
Two witheringly difficult years after my dad died, mom took up with her teenage flame, Lonnie Castle. The two of them made quite a sight, she with her waist-long silver hair and clutching her arm, he, a blind man with mirrored aviators, tapping his red-tipped cane on the way to get into their convertible mustang. They tore up the highways and byways with the top down in a way that only 60-somethings can, stopping at every American Legion Hall along the way. They went to horse races, threw derby parties, and ate their weight in fried oysters. They visited friends and family all through Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Utah, and even “Vegas, baby!” She took care of Lonnie many years after his third debilitating stroke, until she could not physically perform the work of his care. He survives her and he knows that she is gone. He is woefully sad to lose the love of his life.
To hear her tell it, possibly to make us feel well loved, and she was good at that, the thing she most wanted in life was to be a mommy. She became a serious, silly, exacting, perfectly imperfect and unconditionally loving mommy (except for that time I stopped shaving my pits). I know she regrets to leave behind Stephanie Ritchie and Jonda Duty, who are now so very sad, free floating in a world that doesn’t make sense without her as our witness, our anchor, our grounding rod. Jonda and her children Toye Annette, John Ethan, and Emma Kaye had the pleasure of living in Florida with Yia Yia (as the grandchildren called her) when the kids were little. They can tell you about her soup beans, homemade fudge, and what a switch is. John Ethan, at 18 years old, had the pleasure of living in Kentucky with Yia Yia for the last 7 months, during which time they helped each other in ways too deep to measure. Stephanie and her children Stephan Tarver and Taryn Carmel, along with John Ethan, had the pleasure of living in Utah with Yia Yia for her last beautiful, brutal 3 months. They can tell you all about her cheesy cornbread, pillow arrangements for a person who sleeps in a recliner, and what happens in every episode of “Lost,” during which they had a lot of couch snuggles.
On the day she asked me to call hospice she said, “I’m ready to go. I’ve had a good life. It’s been hard but at least I didn’t become a crochety shit-ass.” No, mom, you didn’t. Instead you became a mother to many, a talented maker, an indomitable helpmate, and a tireless caregiver. Mom had blue eyes. She parted her hair strictly in the middle. In her lifetime she used enough Ultra Brite toothpaste to scrub the paint right off this building. She passed with her hand in mine, in Park City, Utah, early on the morning of Friday, May 15. Her service is being held on Friday, May 29, 2020, at Trahan Funeral Home. On the same day she is being laid to rest with John Duty at Barrancas National Cemetery NAS Pensacola, Florida.
Trahan Family Funeral Home is in charge of all arrangements.