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Johnson Eugene "Gene" Duncan
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Obituary for Johnson Eugene "Gene" Duncan

Dr. Johnson Eugene “Gene” Duncan, age 98, of Morehead, husband of the late Jane Yarbrough Duncan, and retired Dean, College of Humanities, at Morehead State University, passed away Friday, February 2, 2018, at his home.

Born March 18, 1919, in Florence, Alabama, to Whitten Eugene and Nettie Mae Johnson Duncan, Gene was the eldest of five children. His brothers, Collier and Asa, and sisters, Mary Kenneth and Anne, are deceased. Reared in a family of musicians, Gene progressed from the Tonette in the fifth grade to the clarinet in junior high and the cello and saxophone in high school.

Gene attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music in 1941. He began his career as band director at Shades Cahaba High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Gene joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and was awarded a citation as the top pilot in his squadron during mid-flight training. Unfortunately, a bout of pneumonia and a severe allergic reaction to an antibiotic led to an honorable medical discharge. While recovering at home, Gene met the love of his life, Jane Yarbrough, whom he wed on August 4, 1944. Jane passed away in 2009, after almost 65 years of marriage.

In 1946, Gene and Jane moved to Evanston, Illinois, where Gene completed a master of music degree at Northwestern. In 1947, they moved to Jacksonville, Alabama, where Gene became the director of the band at Jacksonville State University.

In 1954, Gene accepted a fellowship at the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he earned his PhD in 1955. The Duncans had returned to Jacksonville when Dr. Adron Doran, president of Morehead State College, called Gene and convinced him to come to Morehead to build a strong music department. Gene and Jane arrived in 1956 and for the next 28 years Dr. Duncan excelled in building a renowned music program. While serving as head of the Music Department, chairman of Fine Arts, and dean of the College of Humanities, he recruited outstanding faculty and students. In addition to numerous professional accomplishments, he served as the national president of Phi Mu Alpha Music Fraternity and national president of the Sinfonia Foundation. He was the recipient of the Founder’s Award for University Service in 1994, and the J. E. Duncan Recital Hall in the Baird Music Building is named in his honor. He retired from the University in 1982.

Active in community life, Gene was a founder and member of the Board of Directors of First Federal Savings and Loan since 1963, a founding member of the Optimist Club in 1964, and a member of Morehead Investors Club and Morehead Men’s Club.

Gene and Jane loved the University, the community and the church. From childhood, Gene wanted to serve the Lord, and one of his passions was teaching the Builders Sunday School Class at the Morehead United Methodist Church for more than 45 years. Many of Gene and Jane’s friends were members of this group.

Dr. Duncan is survived by one son, Charles Eugene “Chuck” Duncan and wife Mary of Lexington; one daughter, Dianne Gowin and husband Ray of Marion, Ohio; four grandchildren, Steven (Enola) Jones, Paul (Laura) Jones, Matthew Duncan and Katherine Duncan; and three great granddaughters, Tereasa (Brian) Schrote and Amanda and Lydia Jones.

He also leaves behind his loyal and kind caregivers, Cathy Reddicks, Billie Jo Lambert, Rose Nations, Saundra Newton, and Jill Wright, as well as a host of nieces, nephews, extended family and dear friends.

Funeral services will be conducted 11 a.m. Monday, February 5, 2018, at Northcutt & Son Home for Funerals Memorial Chapel with the Rev. Aaron Mansfield officiating. Burial will follow in Lee Cemetery with full military honors by Morehead American Legion Post 126.

Pallbearers: Steven Jones, Paul Jones, Tereasa Schrote, Ray Gowin, Matthew Duncan, Katherine Duncan. Honorary pallbearers: Dr. C. Nelson Grote, Dr. John Philley, Dr. Eugene Norden, Cliff Barker, Verlin Qualls, and members of the UMC Builders Sunday School Class.

Visitation for Dr. Duncan will be 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Sunday, February 4, 2018, at Northcutt & Son Home for Funerals, 400 Fraley Drive, Morehead, KY 40351.

In lieu of flowers, contributions are suggested to the United Methodist Church, 227 West Main Street, Morehead, KY 40351 or St. Claire Hospice, 222 Medical Circle, Morehead, KY 40351

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Previous Events





1:30 PM - 4:00 PM
Northcutt & Son Home for Funerals, Inc.

400 Fraley Drive
Morehead, KY 40351





11:00 AM
Northcutt & Son Home for Funerals, Inc.

400 Fraley Drive
Morehead, KY 40351

Cemetery Details


Lee Cemetery

Lee Cemetery Road
Morehead, KY 40351


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