Esther was born in Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, CA on January 17, 1927, the fourth daughter in a family with nine children. She prayed with her mother to receive Jesus Christ as her savior from sin when she was four and a half years old. She had been a naughty girl and her mother told her that if she would let Jesus into her heart, He would help. With the pure faith of a little child, she did just that and was born again, a child of the Living God. Esther did not experience an individual call to the ministry, but at the age of twelve she began a life of full-time evangelistic service as a member of the Libbey Family Band, playing many different musical instruments, singing, and winning souls for Jesus Christ all of North, Central, and South America along with her parents, grandfather, and brothers and sisters. She was especially gifted with the ability to fish for souls like her mother.
In 1985, the Libbey Family band traveled to Springdale, Arkansas to hold revival services for The Salvation Army. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Jerry Duke, heard the bus pull into the parking lot at about 3 am but waited until about 6 am to see who was there. What he saw changed his life. There, in the driver’s seat of an old school bus belonging to the Libbey Family Band, was the loveliest woman he had ever seen, wrapped in a furry, white overcoat, and looking right at him. He was “smitten.” “Oh,” he thought, “I should have come out sooner.” Later in the week, Jerry shared with the family some of his antics while trying to find the way to Heaven before he got saved, Esther got to laughing along with him, and she was “smitten.” It took Jerry eighteen years to learn that Esther was the woman God intended him to marry, Order and Regulations for Officers of The Salvation Army notwithstanding.
In 2003, Esther, suffering with a pinched sciatic nerve, was left to stay with her sister, Connie, in Banning, CA while the Libbey Family band made an evangelistic trip to Mexico and various Central American countries. Jerry began courting Esther in earnest, proposed marriage, and waited until she said, “Yes.” On April 5, 2004, Jerry resigned his officer commission and married Esther on April 9, 2004. Following their wedding, Esther moved to Alexandria, Virginia with Jerry, where he continued his work as Resource Center Director for The Salvation Army National Headquarters as an employee rather than an officer.
God healed Esther from the pinched nerve and gave her and her husband a fruitful ministry together, winning souls in the bed and breakfast near Zion National Park on their honeymoon, in the community where they lived in Alexandria, VA and evangelistic meetings in an assisted living community called Mount Vernon House twice a month. In 2011, Jerry retired, and he and Esther moved to Cabazon, CA to be able to visit Esther’s sister, Connie, in Cherry Valley Healthcare while the Libbey Family Band continued its ministry in Mexico. Faithful to God, spending her life for Jesus Christ, Esther continued to preach the gospel with a pure heart of love unto the end. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is to come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).
Wiefels & Son Mortuary is handling the arrangements, Esther is survived by her husband, Jerry Duke. She was preceded in death by her parents, Guy and Edna Libbey; brothers, Guy (Jr.), Rowland, Stanley, Loren, Donald and his wife Ann; and sister, Edna, Connie, and Ella (Maude). Faithful servant of God, now home with her Savior Jesus Christa! Amen.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Esther Mary Duke, please visit our floral store.