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Patricia Duncombe

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Patricia Duncombe Obituary
PATRICIA DUNCOMBE Patricia Warburton Duncombe, a retired social worker and community activist, who was widely recognized for her commitment to justice and improving the lives of others, passed away Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Willow Creek Buffalo Assisted Living Facility in Las Vegas. She was 85. She had been in hospice care since a recent fall. Mrs. Duncombe was born Jan. 30, 1925, in London, England, and came to the United States during World War II. She married an Episcopal priest, raised five children, served on state commissions for women in Nevada and Wyoming, worked for many years in social service agencies, taught at the University of Wyoming, and founded organizations to provide child care, emergency shelter for abused children and respite care for the caregivers of the elderly. In 1989, she launched the Lend-A-Hand Program in Boulder City, which gives respite care to families caring for the frail elderly and disabled. In 1992, President George H.W. Bush awarded the program the 700th Point of Light in his campaign to recognize volunteerism. In what essentially was a shared ministry with her husband, the Rev. David S. Duncombe, she served alongside him in churches in Hicksville, N.Y., Tucson, Ariz., Elko, and the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Their joint efforts were never more closely linked than at Wind River where her husband was in charge of church work and Mrs. Duncombe was director of St. Michael's Youth Residence, a residential treatment center for Native American teenagers and preteens. At Wind River, they played key roles in a successful community effort to establish an Indian-controlled high school, aiming to stem a 70 percent dropout rate among students who attended off-reservation public schools at the time. After her husband's sudden death in 1976, Mrs. Duncombe became a professor of social work at the University of Wyoming. She also threw herself into her role as chair of the Wyoming Women's Conference. The Casper Star-Tribune, in an editorial headlined "It's not the same jazz," called the June 1977 conference an "unqualified success" that had allowed a free airing of viewpoints surrounding issues of equality. The newspaper singled out Mrs. Duncombe for making the conference a success and noted that she did so despite the urging of friends to postpone the first planning meeting a month after her husband's death. "Patricia Duncombe insisted, saying that as a 'displaced homemaker' -- a widow -- she realized that more than ever a conference like this was needed." In her early career, she worked as a counselor and program director for YWCAs in Illinois and New York. While in Elko, she was a social service representative for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a child welfare worker for the Nevada State Welfare Division. After 12 years in Wyoming, she returned to Nevada to serve as program director for St. Jude's Ranch for Children in Boulder City and later as a social worker for several home health agencies. After the untimely death of her daughter, Dr. Mari Koch, in 1998, Mrs. Duncombe coauthored "When Death Comes Suddenly," a collection of first-person narratives and commentary focused on the strategies that families find most helpful after the unexpected death of a loved one. In another book, "Within the Circle: Christian Ministry and the American Indian," she reflected on the cultural considerations required for successful ministry among Native Americans. Mrs. Duncombe earned a bachelor's degree from Barnard College at age 19 and a master's degree in social work from Columbia University. She was a member of the National Association of Social Workers, the American Association of University Women and the Mesquite Club of Las Vegas. Survivors include a daughter, Beth Duncombe of Las Vegas; three sons, Ted of Drexel Hill, Pa., David of Appleton, Wis., and Peter of Las Vegas; a sister, Dame Anne Warburton; two brothers, the Rev. Piers Warburton and John Warburton, all of the United Kingdom; nine grandchildren; two great-granddaughters; and a large, loving extended family. Two grandsons, Jeremy Duncombe Butler and Kalgin Koch, predeceased her. Services will be at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, at Grace in the Desert Episcopal Church, 2004 Spring Gate Lane, Las Vegas, NV 89134. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to Lend-A-Hand, Inc., 400 Utah St., Boulder City, NV 89005.

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