ROBERT SHELDON DUECKER of Fort Wayne, Ind., 85, a Bishop of The United Methodist Church, died on October 28, 2011 at Fort Wayne. He was born in Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio on September 4, 1926 to Howard LaVerne and Sarah Faye Simpson Duecker. He was confirmed in the LeRoy (Ohio) Methodist Episcopal Church and is a 1944 graduate of Westfield High School in Westfield, Ohio. R. Sheldon Duecker and Marjorie Louise Clouse were united in marriage on June 13. 1948 and celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary this year.
Bishop Duecker held degrees from Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, IN (B. Rel. and A.B., 1948); and, Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, IN (B.D. and M.S., 1952). He did additional work at Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, IL. He attended special session in Boston University and Mansfield College, Oxford University in England. He held honorary degrees from Christian Theological Seminary and Kendall College in Evanston, IL.
Bishop Duecker was ordained an Elder in the former North Indiana Conference by Bishop Richard C. Raines in 1953. He served as an associate pastor of Kokomo Grace and as pastor at Dyer, Gethsemane (Muncie), Hartford City, First (Warsaw), Simpson (Fort Wayne) and High Street (Muncie) United Methodist churches. He also served as North Indiana Conference Council Director from 1973 to 1977 and as Fort Wayne District Superintendent from 1977 to 1982.
Bishop Duecker served on the board of directors of Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, from 1977 to 1982, while District Superintendent of the Fort Wayne District of the former North Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church.
He also served on many boards and committees of the former North Indiana Conference, including the Board of Ordained Ministry, chairperson of the Board of Education, and chair of the Commission on Camps and Conferences.
He was elected delegate to four sessions of the General Conference from 1962 through 1988 and to six sessions of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference from 1968 through 1988.
He was the author of several articles and of one book, Tensions in the Connection, published by Abingdon in 1983.
He was a member of the General Council on Ministries and chaired the Unit on Evaluation and Coordination. He served as secretary of the General Advance Committee, was a member of the Committee on Africa Church Growth and Development, and the Commission to Study the Mission of the Church.
He was named “Sagamore of the Wabash” by Indiana Governor Robert Orr in September 1988.
Duecker was elected a Bishop in 1988 by the North Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church and was assigned to the Chicago Area. While an active Bishop, he served the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the General Board of Publication, and the University Senate of The United Methodist Church. He chaired the Council of Bishops committee to develop materials for the church-wide study of the denomination’s Theological Statement, as well as the Mission Statement of The United Methodist Church adopted in 1988. He was president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Greater Chicago and president of the North Central College of Bishops.
He was a trustee of the University of Evansville, North Central College and Kendall College. He also served as trustee of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill.
Following retirement in 1996 as Bishop of the Chicago Area, he served as Bishop in Residence of First Wayne Street United Methodist Church in Fort Wayne, contributing in innumerable ways to the life of the church. He also served as Volunteer Consultant to the Development Office of Africa University, where a residence hall was dedicated in his honor. He has served on the Board of Directors of Erin’s House in Fort Wayne. At the time of his death, he was serving as Honorary Chair of the Indiana Camps and Conference Capital Fund Campaign. The first new lodge at Epworth Forest Conference Center in North Webster, Ind., in a generation, Duecker Lodge, was dedicated and named in honor of Bishop Duecker and Marjorie Duecker on June 4, 2011. He was an eight-year cancer survivor.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Bishop Duecker will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, November 5, at First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, 300 East Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, Ind. Survivors include: wife, Marjorie Louise (Clouse) Duecker; a daughter, Cristine Holman (David) of Fort Wayne; and three brothers: Heyman (Jean) of Marion, Ind.; Ronald (Ethel) of Wooster, Ohio; and Dennis (Patti) of Medina, Ohio; three grandchildren, Carrie Haney of Atlanta, Ga., Robert Haney of Morristown, N.J.; and Lori Haney of Fort Wayne; and a great-granddaughter, Jaden Housman of Fort Wayne. He was preceded in death by a son, the Rev. Philip Lee in 2000 and by two brothers, Sherrod and Victor. Memorial contributions can be made to The Bishop R. Sheldon and Marjorie L. Duecker Scholarship Fund of Africa University, c/o General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007 or to The First Wayne Street United Methodist Church, 300 East Wayne Street, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. Condolences to Marjorie and the family can be sent to Cristine Holman, 7614 Hermitage Place, Fort Wayne, IN 46815.