“All of a sudden, somebody at the head of the boat said, ‘I’ve got a fish,’ then everybody went up to the front of the boat,” said his wife, Elsie LaDuke. “He was hours untangling those lines.”
A patient fisherman and humorous family man, Mr. LaDuke died at his Voorheesville home on Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. He was 83.
When the news spread that night, family serendipitously came together at the LaDuke home and made a toast, each with a sip of his favorite blackberry brandy he kept in his tackle box.
“We have talked so much, and we have laughed, and we have cried,” said Mrs. LaDuke, describing the night.
Mr. LaDuke’s grandsons recalled the buckets of small fish — shiners — they caught as kids camping at Bulwagga Bay, Port Henry, which he skinned, boned, and fried.
“They couldn’t understand how much patience Grandpa had,” said Mrs. LaDuke.
Born in Blackbrook, N.Y., the son of the late Peter and Myrtle LaDuke, Mr. LaDuke and his brothers liked pranks and shared a rambunctious sense of humor.
“He really loved telling a joke, but he could not tell a joke worth of beans,” said Mrs. LaDuke. “He’d start telling it and he’d start laughing.”
When Mr. LaDuke was 15, his family, which worked on farms, moved to the Capital Region.
The two met when Mrs. LaDuke was walking barefoot with her friend Sylvia after swimming in the Normanskill Creek and Mr. LaDuke offered them a ride to keep their feet from blistering.
Every Sunday after, the couple met to square dance, before “Louie” was drafted in the Korean War, serving as a radio operator in the Army.
On Jan. 25, 1953, they were married at St. Margaret Mary’s on Western Avenue in Albany after he returned from the war.
Their marriage lasted 60 years, until his death. They raised three daughters and attended St. Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville. Mrs. LaDuke said she feels blessed to have known someone so gentle and religious like his mother.
“When she fixed a meal, no matter who walked in the house, there was a place for them to sit, and she had nine children,” said Mrs. LaDuke of her mother-in-law.
When his eldest daughter needed eye surgery, Mr. LaDuke sold his beloved Harley Davidson motorcycle to afford the operation.
Mr. LaDuke worked in construction, as an equipment operator and in an excavation business with his brothers, eventually becoming an operating engineer for Union 106.
“I think he could scratch your back with one of those shovels,” said Mrs. LaDuke. “He was a fantastic operator.”
Saving her tips as a waitress, Mrs. LaDuke bought the indestructible, 16-foot Boston Whaler boat for Mr. LaDuke one Father’s Day. Its white hull kept his family safe and afloat while he patiently waited for a bite.
“He just loved everybody, and no matter where he lived he somehow found a job if he was laid off or the job ran out,” said Mrs. LaDuke. “He was my hero. He always managed to take care of us.”
Louis is survived by his wife, Elsie (née Smith) LaDuke of Voorheesville; his children, Victoria LaDuke of Schenectady, Christina LaDuke of Voorheesville, and Loucinda Walsh and her husband, Michael, of Middleburgh; his grandchildren, Gary Graffunder, Domenica Wagoner and her husband, John, Timothy LeClair and his wife, Mary, Keith LeClair and his wife, Joanna, and Justin Phillippe; and his great-grandchildren, Savannah Wagoner, Alivia Wagoner, Alexander LeClair, Nicholas LeClair, Hailey LeClair, and Zoey LeClair; his brothers, Nelson, Roy, and Tom LaDuke; and many nieces and nephews.
His parents, Myrtle and Peter LaDuke, died before him, as did his granddaughter, Crystal Rosemary Graffunder; his brothers, Dale, Robert, and Eugene LaDuke; and his sisters, Belva and Velma LaDuke.
Calling hours will be held on Friday, Feb. 22, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the New Comer-Cannon Funeral Home, at 343 New Karner Road, Colonie, with a funeral service to immediately follow at 8 p.m. at the funeral home.
Mourners may go online to newcomeralbany.com.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Breast Cancer Association, 113 Redbud Lane, Martinez, GA 30907.
— Marcello Iaia