F. Duke Torbert passed away on July 21, 2021, at the age of 85. He was born to Frank and Mary Sue Torbert on June 24, 1936, in Smyrna, Georgia, and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, alongside his younger brother, John. Duke graduated from Dreher High School, having lettered in football during his high school career.
After attending the University of Chicago for one year, Duke returned to Columbia and completed his studies at the University of South Carolina, earning a degree in physics. Duke and Pat met on a blind date and married in 1957, settling in Columbia. In 1959, after two years of graduate studies, Duke accepted an engineering position with Martin-Marietta Corporation (now Lockheed Martin) and relocated to Orlando. He worked as an aerospace engineer and a data systems engineer during his 37-year career with the company.
Duke and Pat raised four children and enjoyed many family trips to the beach and summer vacations in the mountains of North Carolina, as well as visits to grandparents and relatives in South Carolina. Duke raised orchids in his backyard greenhouse and belonged to the Orchid Society in Orlando.
He was first introduced to swim team officiating when two of his children expressed an interest in the Ft. Gatlin swim team. He went on to work as a Florida Swimming Official for over 30 years. In 2019, Highlander Aquatics recognized Duke’s contributions to Florida swim officiating with a lifetime achievement award. Duke also gave back to his community by regularly donating blood to the Central Florida Blood Bank, contributing more than 30 gallons of blood during his life.
After retirement, Duke and Pat enjoyed group square dancing and socializing with the friends they made at the Whirl and Twirl Square Dance Club. They traveled in the United States, Europe, and South America and took trips with their children and grandchildren to various places including New York City and the Grand Canyon.
One of Duke’s greatest joys in life was singing and he spent many years as a member of the tenor section of the adult choir at First Baptist Church, Orlando. In later years, Duke sang with the choir at Downtown Baptist Church, and performed with singing groups, The Downtowners at Orlando Lutheran Towers and Young at Heart in Winter Park.
Duke was committed first and foremost to his family and although he did not often voice his feelings, he showed his love and pride in the countless hours he spent attending athletic events, band concerts, and award ceremonies in support of his children and grandchildren. Duke was known within the family to have the solution to every situation and when anyone faced a difficult problem it was often suggested to ask him because “that’s a grandpa question.”
Duke is survived by Pat, his wife of 64 years ; children, Frank (Paula), Mary (Mike), Andrea (Tim), and David (Terry); grandchildren, Duke, Danielle, Chancellor, Adair, Melanie, Alex, Kyle, Chloe, Jackson, Katie and Emma, and great-granddaughter, Ellie, all of whom will miss him dearly.