"It was very rewarding for him," said his wife, the former Joyce Morton. "He was very passionate about it, helping people. He was very much admired and respected by his colleagues and the inmates he worked with. They would tell him how much they appreciated the fact that he was always fair and decent to them."
Philip James Dukes Jr., who was a warden at the former Holmesburg Prison and the Philadelphia Detention Center, finished his career as deputy commissioner for operations, treasured the Volkswagen Beetle and served as a church deacon, died Aug. 1 after a long illness. He was 76 and lived in West Oak Lane.
Phil was honored by the Chapel of the Four Chaplains for community service and received the Exemplary Award from the Pennsylvania Department of Justice.
One of Phil's serious challenges came in the late '80s when U.S. District Judge Norma L. Shapiro issued her controversial order to reduce prison overcrowding, even if it meant releasing prisoners. Phil was deputy superintendent of Holmesburg at the time, coping with a prison with a capacity of 800 and a population of 1,250. He was lucky that the most serious incident he had to deal with was a food fight in May 1989, started by prisoners fed up with crowded conditions.
The previous June the prisons were releasing inmates wholesale, under bail paid by the city. "As fast as we're releasing them, we've got new ones coming in the door and we can't shut the door until 5 p.m.," he told reporters.
Phil started his career at Holmesburg in 1961 and retired in 1996.
Phil was an outstanding athlete, excelling at football and track at the old Northeast High School (now Thomas Edison High School), and played football for the semi-pro team the Vagabonds. He attended Temple University and received a master's in human services from Lincoln University.
A devoted family man, Phil married his wife in 1980.
Phil was a member of the "Bug Pack," a group of fans of the early Volkswagen compact, called the Beetle, or Bug. He attended meetings and shows of the group, and worked on his own VWs at his home. "He liked to go to the shows so he could scout for parts for his own Volkswagens," his wife said.
In 1987, he joined the Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church and was ordained a deacon in 1990.
"He was very pleasant, very outgoing," his wife said. "People loved being around him. He was very witty. He always had a joke for you."
Phil liked all kinds of music, especially jazz. He liked the newcomers, as well as the legends, like John Coltrane and Miles Davis.
Besides his wife, he is survived by two sons, Michael and Derek; three daughters, Gale Black, Deborah Jones and Sherrilynn Montague; a brother, Alexander Dukes; two sisters, Marjorie Wharton and Diana Dukes; 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Services: 10 a.m. Saturday at Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church, 7236 Ogontz Ave. Friends may call at 5 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday at the church.
Contact John F. Morrison at 215-854-5573 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.