Melda Faye Dietz Duhon, 87, died peacefully at home on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013. She took her last breaths surrounded by loving family, with her husband of 66 years, Elton J. Duhon, holding her hand.
Melda was a sweet soul, whose kindness flowed easily. She was devoted to her family, and her family was devoted to her. But her goodness was for everyone, even if you were just one of her kids’ friends passing through the house.
She was a brilliant mind, who loved all books but especially the hard ones. She adored William Faulkner, understood James Joyce. Melda cherished the years she spent in a book club in Williamsburg with other sharp women. She would pick out books for her young grandchildren but always read them first so they could talk about them together. And they were cool books. Her bachelor’s degree was in math, and she taught college math for one year. Melda loved numbers, but later in life she went back to school to study literature, earning a master’s in English and a master’s of fine arts (or MFA) in creative writing. She wrote her own book, based on the death of her son Rusty.
She was a strong heart, who was the ultimate caregiver. Just raising nine children would’ve been plenty for most people. But for so many years she also cared for her aging parents, who lived next door. And she was devoted to young Rusty, keeping him at home during three years of illness and surgeries because of a brain tumor. She also buried a second son, Brad, who died as an adult in a work accident.
Her strong heart and brilliant mind weakened over the years, but her sweet soul never failed. She survived a heart attack in her 60s and came back from it by eating healthier and speed-walking circles around her husband as they wandered the neighborhood. But it was Alzheimer’s that very slowly took her mind and finally the rest of her. She amazed her doctors by holding onto so much mental ability for so long. She amazed us all by her grace and strength.
Melda was born in Lake Charles, La., to Walter and Viola Dietz. She attended McNeese Junior College, graduated from Baylor University and did her post-graduate study at McNeese State University. She and Elton lived in Lake Charles until 1995, when they moved to Miles Creek in Mathews County, Va. They had nine children, 18 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Melda loved to travel. She visited Europe, Mexico, Nova Scotia, China and Egypt. But her favorite trips were to her children’s homes to help when babies were born.
In addition to her parents, she was predeceased by two brothers, Ferris Dietz and Gene Dietz; one sister, Nita Scotcher, and two sons, Rusty Duhon and Brad Duhon.
In addition to her husband, Elton, she is survived by her two daughters, Kathy Duhon of Mathews, who cared for her mom lovingly in her home until the end, and Sylvia Duhon (Robin McCormick) of Hampton; her sons, Ferris Duhon (Ruta), Marvant Duhon (Susan), David Duhon of Mathews, Kevil Duhon (Kathy Crown) and Pierre Duhon (Paula); her grandchildren, Theresa Duhon, Matiss Duhon, Russell Duhon, Julie Duhon, Kendra Bauer, Cassidy Duhon, Amanda Duhon, Anna Duhon, Will Greene, Matt Greene, Clara Duhon, Margaret Duhon, Peyton Duhon, Phaedra Duhon, Brad Duhon, Sarah Olds, Sam McCormick and John Michael McCormick, and also Cindy Gebhard, Jon Greene and A.J. Plunkett.
Melda’s family would like to thank the members of Francis de Sales Catholic Church and of Central United Methodist Church for all their prayers and support, and also the staff of Riverside Hospice for their wonderful care and attention.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Richmond (Gloucester office) or to a charitable organization of your choice.
The funeral was held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Mathews. Father Robert Cummins and the Rev. Suzanne Gibson presided at the service. Burial followed at Smithers Cemetery. Visitation was 7-9 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at Foster-Faulkner Funeral Home in Mathews.