Patty Duke’s death felt by local resident
Published 3:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016
The death of actress Patty Duke on March 29, 2016 brought a bit of sadness to those who have followed Duke’s career on stage, film and television.
Duke achieved stardom in 1962 at the age of 16 when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The next year, she was further rewarded with her own television show, The Patty Duke Show, in which she played identical cousins. Although she progressed to more mature roles, she is perhaps best known for that television series.
Robert Dansby of Brundidge was vaguely familiar with The Patty Duke Show. He knew her face. But it was not until March 31, 2011, that he became a Patty Duke fan.
As a result of his mother’s illness during pregnancy, Dansby has been deaf since birth. He learned sign language at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega.
Dansby works for Troy University Sodexo and takes advantage of every opportunity to attend the university’s annual Helen Keller Lecture Series events, which have sign language interpreters. He is inspired by stories the lecturers’ share.
Through an interpreter, Dansby said he looks forward to each lecture and the message from each speaker.
He said that Patty Duke’s message was especially meaningful to him because, after achieving stardom, she experienced an illness in her own life that she had to learn to accept. But, for Dansby, deafness is the only way of life he has ever known. He thinks it would have been more difficult to suddenly experience and accept the loss of his hearing.
In 1982, Duke was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But she dealt with her illness by devoting much of her time as an advocate for educating the public on mental health issues.
It was in an advocate’s role that Duke was a guest lecturer for the Helen Keller Series in 2011 and that’s how Dansby was able to meet and visit with her.
“I liked meeting her and she was very nice,” Dansby said.
“I had my picture taken with her and she gave me an autograph.”
The photo and autograph are very special to Dansby. He has kept them in a special place since that eventful day in his life.
Dansby said he was sad when he heard that Duke had died.
“She was a nice lady and I was honored to get to meet her,” he said. “I want to thank Dr. Jack Hawkins for bringing this famous actress to Troy University and for bringing all the other famous people to the Helen Keller Lectures. It is an honor to get to hear their stories.”
Over the course of her career, Duke received 10 Emmy Award nominations and three Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards.