The death of Anthony Drexel Duke, a founder and president of Boys and Girls Harbor, a summer camp in East Hampton and year-round organization in Manhattan, was announced on Wednesday on the Boys and Girls Harbor website. He was 95 and had cancer.
"The entire Harbor community, while grieving Tony's death, will observe his passing by celebrating his extraordinary legacy," the website stated, noting that over 50,000 young people had attended the harbor in its 77-year history.
Mr. Duke established the camp for inner-city boys in 1937. The organization grew from a small summer camp to a multidisciplinary education and arts organization that serves more than 1,000 students from Harlem and surrounding communities each year.
The early camp was on Duck Island, an area on Jessup's Neck overlooking Peconic Bay. Many early counselors were Mr. Duke's friends, including Senator Claiborne Pell, New York Mayor Robert Wagner, and Bishop Paul Moore.
The camp moved to Three Mile Harbor, off Springy Banks Road in East Hampton, in 1954, the same year he opened its first office in New York City as a means to support campers throughout the year. In 1960, the organization added the performing arts, tutoring, and counseling programs. It now also provides day care and social services.
Mr. Duke and his family lived for many years on a 57-acre site next to the camp, which was sold in 2003 to East Hampton Town and Suffolk County for $12 million. The 26-acre camp site, from which annual midsummer fireworks shows over Three Mile Harbor were staged as a benefit, often with George Plimpton as narrator, was sold to the town and county for $7.3 million in 2011. The proceeds were used to found the Tony Duke Founder's Path.
In 2006, when the summer camp closed, Luly Duke, Mr. Duke's wife, presented the fireworks for several years until 2009, when Rossetti Perchik, the founder of the Clamshell Foundation, a nonprofit that assists community groups and awards scholarships to East Hampton High School seniors, took over.
Mr. Duke had worked over the years for several family-owned businesses, including the Duke International Import/Export Company, where he served as vice president, and A.D. Duke Realty, where he was president. He also served as a director of the American National Bank.
His charitable work was widely praised and he was named a "living landmark" by the New York Landmark Conservancy. He also received several presidential citations for the work at Boys and Girls Harbor. Locally, Mr. Duke was also a founder of the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation.
"Though I have been called a philanthropist, I never felt that word fit," Mr. Duke once said. "It suggests someone who donates wads of money from afar. I was involved in everything at the Harbor."
Speaking of Mr. Duke at a time when he was being honored, former President Bill Clinton said, "America's strength as a nation always has depended on individuals who have been willing to work for the common good. From his brave service in World War II to his tireless advocacy on behalf of our youth, Tony Duke has epitomized this fine tradition."
Fuller obituary information will be appear here and be published in the May 8 edition of The East Hampton Star.