Annie Belle Merritt Duke was born October 12, 1922, in Milligan, Florida, and died August 17, 2019, in Montgomery, Alabama. She was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Merritt (8/27/1883-3/1/1936) and Mollie Hill Merritt (12/9/1890-2/8/1977). She lived all but a few of her 96 years in Milligan and Valparaiso, Florida. She is preceded in death by her husband, Johnnie Mose Duke (4/15/1915 – 3/31/2010) and her grandson, John William Picken (10/27/1985 – 5/9/2013). She is survived by three children: John Richard Duke (Deborah Ganus Duke), Roger Thomas Duke (Diane Gail Duke), and Susan Ann Duke Picken (William Randel Picken)—seven grandchildren: Johnna Louise Duke Raymond (Bret Jordan Raymond), John Richard Duke, Jr.; David Loyd Duke (Lanette Dee Duke), Louisa Ann Duke Wicks (Daniel James Wicks), Matthew Warren Duke (Ashley Padgett Duke), Lauren Duke Patterson (Samuel Tate Patterson), and Andrew Scott Picken (Holly Edgar Picken)—and twelve great-grandchildren: Isaac Jordan Raymond, Anna Elisabeth Raymond, Joshua Luke Raymond, Elijah Dale Duke, Caleb Glenn Duke, Asher Loyd Duke, Avey Louise Wicks, Samuel James Wicks, Camden Luke Duke, Skyler Caroline Duke, Duke Samuel Patterson, and John Taylor Picken.
Annie Belle graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1940. Five and one-half years later she married on November 14, 1945, 10 days after Johnnie returned from World War II. During those years she worked briefly as a medical receptionist in Pensacola, and through the years, as a court reporter and eventually secretary at Eglin Air force Base for the highest-ranking civilian in Eglin’s administrative offices. She was a member of the Niceville Church of Christ since around 1950 where she taught Bible classes and for a time served as church secretary.
She will be remembered as loving, devoted, thoughtful, sweet, caring, nurturing, selfless, generous, strong, gracious, attentive, and encouraging. Her exemplary life still echoes and is reflected in the lives of her children and grandchildren and will influence generations to come.
Services will be at Niceville Church of Christ on Saturday, August 24, with visitation at 10:00, Funeral service at 11:00 followed by Graveside service, and lunch at 12:30.