Profile: Charlie Dukes
Date: June 19, 2000
Story by: Eric Lose
Photo by: Dottie Stover
If you pass by, say, "Hi!"
Just after sunrise on a dismally damp, rainy morning, a
cheerful singing voice echos from around the corner of Calhoun
Hall. The out-of-sight voice, coming from the courtyard
stops mid-chorus to hail a passerby, "Howya doin' this morning,
runnin' a little late aren't ya? You look mighty nice today, got
your hair done I see."
Charlie Dukes, the 77-year-old source of the happy voice, is starting his day by cleaning up litter and picking up spirits.
"Why you always so happy Charlie?" someone asked. "Might as
well be," he replied. "The good Lord brought me all this way, I
might as well enjoy the rest."
Dukes, a Facilities Management grounds department temporary
employee, has been smiling his way around campus for more than a
year. "I like outside work," he said. "I worked at Kahn's in 1940
for about 15 minutes. My brother got me the job, but I couldn't
take working inside. I thanked the boss for hiring me but told
him I just couldn't do it. I had to be outside."
Gary Herzog, Dukes' supervisor said, "I wish I had 10 more
like him. He's very conscientious and dependable. I know any job
I assign him will be taken care of." Herzog said Dukes'
happiness is contagious, "He cheers up a lot of people, everybody
Dukes' colorful past includes being a water boy for the old
Negro Leagues when he was eleven. He traveled "in a big old
truck. We went town-to-town."
Dukes used to participate in the teams' home run hitting
contests. He proudly recalls the time he got a hit off Hall of
Fame pitcher Satchel Paige. "He struck me out three times. Then, I
said, 'I can hit him,' and I tagged one."
Born in Georgia, Dukes was 17 when he left home for
Cincinnati. "I came up in 1937 with $37 in my pocket to find
work cleaning after the '37 flood." During WWII, he was an
artillery gunner under General Douglas McArthur in the South
Dukes and his wife raised eight children; he often worked two
jobs to pay for their education. He said, "We raised four boys,
and four girls."
Now that his children are grown and he has cut back to one
job, Dukes devotes a little more time indulging his love of
baseball. "I like my Reds. I like my Bengals too, but they
aren't doing so good lately."
If you hear a happy voice coming from around the corner near
Calhoun Hall in the early morning, stop to visit. You'll be glad
you did. It's a wonderful way to start your day.