We are highlighting examples of Black excellence every day this February….and beyond! Feel free to send us suggestions!
D. Sean Dukes
Phoenixville, PA — Delmar Sean Dukes lived with reckless abandon and sucked all the juice out of life until his departure from this world on January 10, 2022. Born October 13, 1966 at Walson Army Hospital on Fort Dix, NJ, he was the competitive and over-achieving athlete-scholar in his warrior military (Air Force) family.
He is predeceased by his father, Paul E. Dukes. At his father’s memorial service he told the mourners, “Hey Dad, when I grow up, I want to be just like you. In a world where people say, ‘I don’t want to be anyone’s role model and would I still be your hero, if I never played sports?’ he told us all, “Don’t worry Charles [Barkley] and Mike [Michael Jordan], you never were, my Dad is.”
True to his word, Sean grew up to be like his Dad, his role model and hero, guided by his father’s philosophy:
Make no promises you can’t keep.
If you believe in something; live it.
Never do anything you’ll regret.
Apologize when you mess up.
Death walked with Sean through the course of his young adult life and Death was a constant companion who beat in his chest. Sean received his first heart transplant in 1986 and was able to live his first person singular, active voice, action verb life – well beyond age 19. He found his true love, had children, and he shared his life because someone had given him the gift of a heart. He was the Tin Man rooted with courage through his heart; Sean cherished life through his manner and BEing.
We are forever grateful to the family who gifted their son’s heart that beat steadfastly on until 2009, when Sean received his second heart transplant – another gift of life. The donors have lived on through Sean’s life, works, and deeds.
He continued to live his full life and he leaves behind his devoted wife of 26 years, Allison Barnett Dukes, and the lights of his life: his son, Cameron P. Dukes (25) and daughter, Avery L. Dukes (23). He also leaves behind his dear mother, Valerie J. Brooks, also known in her community as “Miss Val” and the “Flower Lady” (Shelburne, MA) and his Persistent, Charming, and Trickster sister, Cheryl L. Dukes, (Buckland, MA).
Sean lived for his family. Although his career kept him on the road quite often, he was happiest on the couch in his Dad jeans, watching a movie with his family. He put his family first and performed small acts of love each and every day. He was known to leave sweet notes for Allison in her car and on her bathroom mirror; he spent 2 summers with blue toenails, as Avery loved to polish them when she was a little girl. He loved to talk sports, cars, stocks, and work with Cameron. Sean was proud to coach Cameron’s various soccer teams over the years and loved being a “horse dad” for Avery. He delighted in traveling around the country to cheer her on at horse shows. He also supported Allison in all new endeavors she took on, but by far his proudest moments were watching Cameron graduate from the University of Oregon in 2018 and Avery graduate from the University of Southern California in 2021.
Sean received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Drexel University and was a proud MIT Sloan Fellow, Class of 2005, where he received his MBA. Sean dedicated 25 years of his career working for Lockheed Martin, where he was a respected colleague and leader. Until 2014, he served as Director – A2100 Spacecraft Modernization Effort, Commercial Ventures, in Newtown, Pennsylvania and then finished his time with LM as Director of Quality & Mission Success, Integrated Fighter Group, in Fort Worth, Texas. He took such pride in building satellites and fighter jets throughout those years and loved pointing to a satellite, jet or tank and telling the kids “I made that.”
Upon his return to Pennsylvania, Sean served as Vice President of Performance Excellence for The Triumph Group in Berwyn, and worked most recently as the Vice President of Operational Excellence for the Platforms and Services sector at BAE Systems. Each of these roles were more than jobs for him; his work was his true passion and he made so many wonderful friends over the years. His hard work and talent were rewarded often; in 1999 he was awarded a Black Engineer of the Year STEM award (1 of 27 professionals recognized nationally for outstanding technical achievement), as well as many Lockheed Martin awards throughout the years. Upon learning of his passing, Sean’s colleagues described him as a “quiet, insightful leader”; “a true leader, manager and friend”; a leader who “made us better.”
Sean’s other passion in life was organ and tissue donation. Affectionately known as the “Tin Man”, Sean received the gift of life in the form of two heart transplants. He received his first in 1986, while a college student, and his second came in 2009. He was strong and stubborn, returning to work afterwards without missing a beat. He was a medal-winning athlete at the National Transplant Olympics in 1991, 1992 and 1994, but was a superstar in all aspects of life. He took great pride in being a part of the Gift of Life Donor Program in Philadelphia, serving as the Vice Chair of the Gift of Life Governing and Medical Advisory Board and the Chair of the Investment Committee on the Board of Directors. Upon his death, he gave the ultimate gift of his corneas, giving 2 people the gift of sight.
Sean was a friend to anyone he met. You could be sure he was the smartest person in any room, but he was humble and unassuming. Usually so calm and serious that when he laughed, it just lit up the room. Sean would stop to help anyone at any time and was a particularly proud supporter of our military. He once gave up his seat in an airplane’s first class so an active Marine could have it in his place; that man gave Sean his Purple heart as a token of gratitude, and Sean cherished it. He was a proud donor to the Bob Woodruff Foundation and other non-profit organizations supporting the military.
There are simply too many stories of kindness and generosity to list. His friends have described him as “a gentle man with a kind heart”; “a true gentleman”; “a genuine person who cared about everyone”; “a legend”; and simply, “The Man.”
In lieu of flowers, we ask that donations may be made in Sean’s memory to Gift of Life Family House, 401 Callowhill St., Philadelphia, PA 19123 or online at www.GiftofLifeFamilyHouse.org
All arrangements are being handled by the R. Strunk Funeral Home. Condolences to his mother, Valerie J. Brooks can be sent to POB 173 Shelburne Falls, MA 01370. Online condolences to his family and a link to Gift of Life can be found at www.rstrunkfuneralhome.com.
It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death — ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible to life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. One must negotiate this passage as nobly as possible, for the sake of those who are coming after us. (James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time)
Published by Daily Hampshire Gazette on Jan. 26, 2022.