CLEARWATER — For much of her adult life, Renee Duke traveled in some of the world's most cultured circles.
She studied painting at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, and covered the art galleries for the International Herald Tribune. She also lived in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Belgium, and held numerous one-woman shows, where she sold her misty seascapes to art collectors.
"She was really a highly cultured woman who was tremendously approachable," said Riggs Eckelberry, 58, her son. "There was none of the attitude you associate with class."
Ms. Duke was born in 1927 in New York City. She studied fine arts at Radcliffe College, where she met Harvard liberal arts student Tener Eckelberry.
They married in 1948. Her husband's work with Procter & Gamble took them to North America, South America and Europe. In the mid 1950s, they landed in Paris, where Ms. Duke got a job as a reporter for Women's Wear Daily.
As she was earning a master's degree at the Beaux Arts, a 1968 student and worker rebellion erupted. She later told her family that the historic revolt, accompanied by an explosion in the arts, had stirred her senses and made her glad she was alive to witness it.
In the 1960s, Ms. Duke also became increasingly committed to the Church of Scientology, an interest she had developed since the late 1940s, when she came across an early manuscript of church founder L. Ron Hubbard.
She divorced in 1969 and moved to California, where she enjoyed painting seascapes. Her paintings often evoke "the feeling of a storm brewing, of wine-dark seas," her son said. Her poetry was published in the California State Poetry Quarterly and an anthology of poems by Scientologists. Ms. Duke had six sons, all of whom became Scientologists.
In the early 1980s, Ms. Duke led a series of workshops in Europe teaching dianetics — a "spiritual healing technology," according to the church.
She enjoyed helping others with their problems. In Scientology, Ms. Duke had risen to a "class nine" auditor, or counselor, out of 12 possible levels.
"That was probably the thing she was proudest of," her son said. "She neglected making herself known as a painter and a writer."
Ms. Duke moved to Clearwater in 2001 and settled into a condominium 2 miles from the church's spiritual headquarters. She studied church teachings five to six hours a day, her son said.
She had been studying Jan. 2, then took a break and went home, her son said. She died that day, apparently while taking a nap. Ms. Duke was 83.
She never stopped painting. Art collectors have called since her death, interested in purchasing her work.
Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or firstname.lastname@example.org.