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John Philip Dukes, 84, was received into Heaven Sunday evening, September 4, 2022. He was at his Spirit Lake home, with his family, when he took his last earthly breath.
Phil was born on October 25, 1937, to his parents, John Paul and Veneta Dukes. He grew up on the family farm near Diagonal, IA, and attended a one-room country grade school, Jefferson #6. He attended Diagonal High School, where he perfected his jump shot and earned the honor of last chair on trombone. He would tell you he was a certified nerd who was so bashful that he was unable to even look up while writing his name on the chalkboard. Even so, he managed to capture the heart of a young Taylor girl, Caryl Maxine. She was his first and only love.
Caryl and Phil were united in marriage in 1959, and she has been Phil’s “Little Woman” ever since. They celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on July 19.
Phil graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Agricultural Business in 1959 and entered a career in the agriculture industry, starting in Jewell. He was a co-op manager in Mount Pleasant and Donnellson in the 1960s, before moving to Marathon to serve as co-op manager in 1969 until his retirement in 2000.
Phil served in key leadership positions in agriculture throughout his career, including the Iowa Institute of Cooperatives and Agri Industries. He was instrumental in the formation of Farmers Commodities Corporation (now StoneX) and served as its chairman. Phil was named ISU’s Agriculture Businessperson of the Year in 1995. In 2001, he was inducted into the Iowa Cooperative Hall of Fame, a distinction recognizing Phil’s exceptional service to Iowa cooperatives. He volunteered to help establish co-ops overseas in Ethiopia, Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic.
Phil was an astute and visionary businessman known throughout the industry as a man of integrity. His primary goal was to serve farmers and his employees in the best way he knew how.
He was a huge fan of his community, serving in many ways, including as chairman of the Marathon Centennial in 1983. Phil loved holding a microphone in his hand, whether that was when he announced Laurens-Marathon High School football games, the Marathon-to-Marathon race or during a night of karaoke with family and friends.
Phil was a faithful follower of God and worshiped at many beloved churches, including the United Methodist Church in Marathon, the Honolua United Methodist Church in Maui, the Longville (MN) Community Church and the Good News Community Church in Okoboji.
Phil would tell you that you could learn as much about God on a Lund fishing boat as you could in a church. He gained his love of fishing from his dad, and he passed on that love to his family. After his retirement, Phil and Caryl spent many summers at Mule Lake in Minnesota. He was always eager to have someone in the boat with whom he could share his “Philosophical Phil” nuggets of wisdom.
Phil’s light shone brightly, and it seemed to get brighter as each year passed. He made friends everywhere he went—from Maui beaches to hospital rooms. He was Mr. Glass-Half-Full. An hour after his right leg was amputated, Phil was the one who expressed gratitude for every nurse, doctor and family member in the room.
A true gentleman, Phil was exceptionally kind, whether you were a waitress he’d never met, his hairdresser or his best friend. He quietly worked behind the scenes to lift other people up.
He was a legend. If you didn’t know him, you might say his family is biased, but if you did know him, you’d say, “that’s absolutely right.”
His biggest joy was his family, especially his Little Woman. They were golf partners, hand-holders, world travelers and each other’s pillar of support during the trials of life.
He treasured visits from family members, and never wanted his kids to leave. When it was time to go, he’d tell them to return as soon as they could with the reminder that “we’ll leave the light on for ya.”
A few fun facts about Phil:
He seemed to have two stomachs – one for regular meals and a second one reserved for Dairy Queen Snickers Blizzards. The second stomach never got full.
He knew the lyrics to all of the 70s and 80s classic rock songs and was schooled in the art of air guitar.
He was a master storyteller.
He loved shore-lunch walleye, Cyclone games, gin and tonics, Disney parks and watching the stocks.
He was looking forward to having two legs in heaven.
And no, he didn’t dye his hair.
Phil’s home-going includes a Farewell Tour.
First stop on the Farewell Tour: The family will greet friends at the Community Center in Marathon from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, September 7.
Second stop: The family will greet friends at the United Church of Diagonal, Diagonal, IA, from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, September 8.
Services was at 10:30 a.m. Friday, September 9 at the United Church of Diagonal. His final “dirt nap” – as Phil and Caryl would lovingly call their final resting places – will take place at the Diagonal Cemetery.
Phil will be dearly missed by his wife, Caryl; daughter, Juliann (Mark) Walter and their children, Brennan and Rachel; Lynda (Mike Franey) Dukes and their son, Payton; Jennifer (Scott) Lee and their daughters, Lydia and Anna; John (Lisa) Dukes and their children, Josie and John Taylor; one sister, Joyce (Larry) England; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.
Phil was preceded in death by his parents.
The pallbearers – or as Phil would call them, “polar bears” – are his grandchildren. Honorary pallbearers are his long-time best friend, Jim Benson, (who knows the best fishing spots in heaven because he already lives there), Brazilian pal, Eneas Scaliante, as well as fellow co-op colleagues, Al Lehman, Dave Wesselink, Bill Wiley, Ron Jolliffe and Randy Dunn – “these fellows carried me at the co-op, and they will carry me at the end.”
Phil was generous with his time and finances, donating to many organizations. Memorial contributions will be made to a few of the charities dearest to his heart.
In his honor, be like Phil. Do something extraordinarily kind for someone today.
Phil will see you in Heaven. He promises to leave the light on for ya.
Armstrong Funeral Home in Mount Ayr is in charge of the arrangements.
Services was at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, September 9, 2022 at the United Church of Diagonal in Diagonal, IA.
Officiating was Rev Edward Wegele and Mark Walter.
Musicians were Barb Scott and Julie Christensen.
Casketbearers were Brennan Walter, Rachel Walter, Payton White, Lydia Lee, Anna Lee, Josie Dukes and John Taylor Dukes.
Honorary pallbearers were Jim Benson, Eneas Scaliante, Al Lehman, Dave Wesselink, Bill Wiley, Ron Jolliffe and Randy Dunn.
At rest at the Diagonal Cemetery in Diagonal, IA.
Memorials In Philip’s name to be distributed among his favorite charities.

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