Describing his wife as friendly, caring and someone who never met a stranger, Loudon County Commissioner Harold Duff filed through beloved memories of his wife, from the moment he met her to the grandchildren they shared and her support throughout the years as he pursued his dreams in public service. He has his own way of giving back to the community, and so did she.
Delores served more than 20 years as a board member for the United Way of Loudon County, was a longtime, faithful member of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, a member of the social service sorority Beta Sigma Phi Society since 1969 and served about 15 years as a volunteer nurse with both Loudon County and Lenoir City schools.
But most importantly, her husband and children noted, was her interest in other people’s welfare.
“They were coming through the line (during the funeral) and one gentleman said, ‘My wife passed away three weeks ago and before she passed away your mother had asked about her every single day she saw me; she always asked how she was doing’,” her son, Lance Duff, said. “But that was the way she was. If she was in a room she couldn’t sit there quietly.”
Delores Duff passed away unexpectedly June 30. She was 75 years old.
Giving back had always been a part of Delores’ life. When her children were in grade school, Delores joined as a volunteer in the school clinics. It was a way to check up on her children, daughter Candace “Candy” Collins said, but after her children graduated high school, she stayed.
“She loved kids. She said, ‘Somebody had to take care of those sick children’,” Collins said. “And she loved to babysit the grandchildren.”
When Harold Duff joined the commission, Delores wanted to give back to the community in her own way, Duff said, and she started volunteering with the United Way.
Delores was the longest-serving board member, Lance said.
“She was a vital board member and was very active. It was rare that she ever missed a meeting,” Judy Fenton, United Way of Loudon County executive director, said. Besides regularly volunteering for United Way events, such as selling T-shirts at the Driving to Make a Difference benefit for the local program, Delores solicited contributions on her own for the program’s annual fundraising campaign.
“All the fundraisers that any of the organizations had she volunteered for everything,” Collins said.
“It was her passion. For one thing she loved children, and of course, United Way helps children,” Fenton said. “I think it was her way of being connected to all of the important agencies in our community that help people.”
She was even a local activist for handicap accessibility in Loudon County buildings in support of her late daughter, Melody.
“She will be missed by us all, and the community I think they realized how hard she worked,” Fenton said.
At her church, Delores continued her love for others. She coordinated Good Shepherd UMC fundraising for the Holton United Methodist Home for Children, a orphanage and family counseling center in Greeneville.
“She always had the prayer list for the church service,” Harold said.
“She did, and it had no less than 10 names on it most Sundays. She would go through the list and pray for them,” Collins said.
The Rev. Stephen Burkhart called Delores a “prayer warrior” and role model for younger generations.
“I would call her honest and straight-forward but considerate,” Burkhart said. “... She was a good communicator too. If someone was hurting they could count on getting a call from Delores and being encouraged — not being imposed on, not being over talked but knowing that somebody cared about them and was praying for them. She not only prayed for them, but she let them know she was praying for them.”
Born and raised in Lenoir City, Delores was always vested in her community. She graduated from Lenoir City High School in 1956 and regularly volunteered with the annual Fabulous Fifties Reunion.
“She was always one of the coordinators for that, and she would be the one that handed the name tags out because she wanted to greet everyone when they came in,” Lance said.
Harold Duff, who has served 20 years as a commissioner and is up for reelection in August, said his wife had supported him throughout his tenure. He served 36 years with Lenoir City Schools as an educator, principal and later as superintendent with the district and even worked with the Loudon County Juvenile Center before his stint with commission. But when it came time for reelection, Delores was there to campaign for her husband.
“She called 2,000 people for my election campaign. She sat right there,” Duff said, pointing to a wooden chair near the couple’s kitchen. “She was a good support system.”
The Duffs recently celebrated their 53rd anniversary.
“Everywhere Daddy went she went with him,” Collins said.
“She went with me to the county commission. She sat on the back row. She had been going with me for the last few years,” Harold said.
Fellow longtime commissioner Roy Bledsoe recalled seeing Delores at commission meetings.
“Every time I would see her she would always come up and say how are you and so,” he said, pausing for a chuckle. “She has been that way ever since I’ve met her. She just was always very friendly and outgoing, and she never tried to say anything that was negative. It was all in good nature. That was the kind of person she was.”