Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Renee Duke

Artist Renee Duke divided her time between painting, Scientology

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


Renee Duke

Born: Aug. 20, 1927.

Died: Jan. 2, 2011.

Survivors: Sister Diane Amussen, sons Riggs, Marc, Nicholas, Anthony, Stephen and Alexander Eckelberry;

and 10 grandchildren.

Artist Renee Duke divided her time between painting, Scientology 01/12/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 12, 2011 7:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trump's travel ban to be replaced by restrictions tailored to certain countries


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump's ban on travelers from six majority-Muslim countries is set to be replaced as soon as this weekend with more targeted restrictions on visits to the United States that would vary by country, officials familiar with the plans told the New York Times on Friday.

  2. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico


    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  3. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, died in a reported gun accident at the home of Zoller's parents Sept. 14. She alleges that her husband hit her and caused her to fall on a grave marker at their daughter's funeral Thursday in a tussle over their remaining 1-year-old son. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  4. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  5. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.