Retha Ellen Duckworth, 78, died on August 5th—one day shy of her 60th wedding anniversary—at the Frostburg Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Born on March 20, 1937 in Piedmont, WV, she was the daughter of the late Gerald and Mildred (DeShong) Derham. Retha’s family moved to Mill Run in Barton, MD, where she attended Barton School and was the salutatorian for her graduating class. She married the love of her life, the late John “Biggy” Duckworth, on August 6, 1955, and moved to Sandusky, OH, where John learned the tile trade. After several years, they moved back to the Frostburg area, where Retha assisted with the bookkeeping for John’s businesses and raised a close-knit family of five children.
Along with her husband, Retha was highly involved at Lonaconing First Assembly of God, where she taught Sunday School, organized girl’s programs, and played the piano and organ for church services. In later years, she volunteered for the S.H.I.P program, helping to distribute food to those in need. She’d be the first to downplay this very sentence, but throughout her life she was the best combination of charitable and modest, quick to help others—kith, kin, and strangers alike—and quicker still to shun recognition for it.
She was a lady in the 1950s sense of the word—gracious, poised, polite—and she had a real funny streak, a keen wit behind a wry smile. She lived fully and loved to travel with John, visiting all 50 states as well as Nova Scotia, Scotland, Wales, and England, where she was finally able to meet her childhood pen pal, with whom she maintained a lifelong correspondence. At home, her gift for hospitality inspired decades of unforgettable potluck celebrations for birthdays and holidays and, really, any excuse to gather the whole family. When we think of “home,” most of us think of her home atop Duck Hill, and the weeks we’d spend at her and John’s cabin on Deep Creek Lake, where so many of our summer memories were made. Her legacy—of diligence and hard work, of selflessness and compassion, of the value in nourishing a family community—is something we’ll strive to carry with us always.
Retha is survived by her children, Joyce Fitzwater and husband Ralph (Oakland, MD), Darlene Smith and husband Kevin (Frostburg, MD), Jo Ann Broadwater (Parker, CO), John D. Duckworth and wife Susan (Frostburg, MD), and Dwayne Duckworth (Frostburg, MD). Grandchildren include Casey Broadwater and wife Julianna, Matthew Smith, Nathan Fitzwater and wife Kimi, Tim Smith, Corey Broadwater and wife Lauren, Cayla Broadwater, Sarah Duckworth, and John W. Duckworth. Retha was blessed with three great grandchildren, Austin Fitzwater, Maddox Broadwater, and Elin Broadwater, with two additional great-grandsons on the way. Also surviving are her sisters, Regina Lancaster and husband John, Faye Long and husband Robert, Donna Juday and husband John, and sister-in-law Dottie Sterling and husband Raymond. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband John Duckworth, her brother Kenneth Derham, and son-in-law Terry Broadwater. Family and friends will be received Sunday, August 9th at the Boal Memorial Chapel in Barton, MD from 2pm-5pm.
A Celebration Service will be conducted at 11 AM on Monday, August 10th at Trinity Assembly of God, 19906 Old Midlothian Road SW, Midlothian, MD.
Family and friends may also visit at the church one hour prior to Celebration Service.
In lieu of flowers, monetary gifts can be sent to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research at PO Box 5014 Hagerstown, MD 21741-5014 or michaeljfox.org