Our Future is Full of Hope: Dee Durham

The Greater Salina Community Foundation’s affiliates are helping donors like Dee Durham leave a lasting legacy in their rural communities. 

Dee Durham’s Lucas, Kansas, roots run deep.

“My family was in business in the area since the 1900’s,” she said. “It starts with my great-grandfather on my mother’s side. He had a hardware store.”

That was just the beginning. Durham’s grandfather went to embalming school and operated the local funeral home. Then, after her parents were married, her father followed suit. Durham’s husband, Bob, didn’t steer too far from the family tradition, either.

“I said I’d never marry an embalmer, then I married a guy and he turned into an embalmer!” she said with a laugh. The couple ran the Lucas funeral home until 2001, and Bob passed away in 2003.

Durham, who just turned 80, isn’t exactly sure what made her family stay in the Lucas area for four generations. As the last member of her family remaining in the area, she does know that Lucas still feels like home after all these years.

“One of the reasons is the welcoming attitude towards people,” she said. “People like the Midwest hospitality. That’s important. Keep that, and it will help draw people.”

When Durham learned about the Post Rock Community Foundation (an affiliate of the Greater Salina Community Foundation) at her local senior center a few years ago, something clicked.

“Our family has been in business here, and the people have always been very good to us,” she said. “I felt like it was payback time.”

Durham has contemplated moving into assisted living in Salina, and her grown children all live away from Lucas. She wanted to leave some money in the area that means so much to her, so, in 2014, she started two funds in Bob’s name: one for Lucas’s Garden of Eden and another for the Lucas Community Theater. Growing up in Lucas, she has fond memories of both places.

“I enjoyed the theater as a kid,” she said, reminiscing about the musicals she loved to see growing up. “There were matinées on Sunday afternoons. My mom had a rule, if you didn’t go to Sunday school, you couldn’t go to the matinée.”

Durham hopes the funds she established will help each entity continue to serve Lucas for years to come, by attracting new visitors and stimulating the economy.

“I think of community as more than just Lucas, even though that’s where I live,” she said. “Both [the Garden of Eden and the Lucas Community Theater] are more than just Lucas. They bring people in to the community. It can all help Lucas to some degree.”

Learn more about GSCF’s regional affiliate program here.

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