Stacy DukesJuly 11, 1934 - September 19, 2019

Next time you sit on one of the flat stone benches perched above the sand along the Manhattan Beach Strand, say a small thanks to Stacy Dukes. He’s the one who designed them.  

Everett Stacy Dukes, a longtime furniture and graphic designer who taught for 22 years at California State University Long Beach, died quietly in his Santa Ana home Sept. 19 after a battle with throat and neck cancer. He was 85.

A native of Washington state, Dukes moved to the Los Angeles area in the 1960s and quickly gained international acclaim for the colorful molded plastic chairs he designed for the Los Angeles Public Library and which were then manufactured by Artemide in Italy. 

But while his designs were shown in museums and magazines around the world, Dukes will always be known in Manhattan Beach by his benches—the series of 27 gracefully curved seats along Manhattan Beach’s two-mile stretch of The Strand. 

These benches are more than just places to sit. Each one is a memorial, funded by a donor to honor a lost loved one. 

It was an honor that Dukes took to heart. 

“One of the things that really stood out about him was that he took a personal interest in everybody who got a bench from him,” said Manhattan Beach Cultural Arts Commissioner Martin Betz. “He would meet with them and talk about their loss and get to know them. That’s how he could put a personal touch into each bench—by knowing who he was doing it for.” 

Dukes also wasn’t afraid to take risks.

While initially the benches were solid throughout, at some point Dukes decided to make things more personal by adding hidden compartments, within which donors could place secret mementos in honor of their loved ones. 

“We really didn’t know about that until last year,” Betz said. “Of course, it makes it special.”

Dukes was also known for using new materials and recycled content in his work. The bench project, for instance, used a ceramic by-product of the steel industry as a primary ingredient. 

“I basically just talked [the city] into it,” said Dukes in a 2009 Coast magazine article. “We’ve got to turn the corner on this whole green thing, and the starting point is right here.” 

His success extended far beyond the South Bay. His work was kept and recorded at museums including the Centre de Creation Industrielle in Paris and the International Museum of Art in Osaka, and he won numerous awards, including a silver medal for institutional seating from the Institute of Business Designers in New York. 

He was also published in Industrial Design magazine, Interiors, Sunset, House and Garden, Town and Country, and The Los Angeles Times—as well as several design magazines in Italy, Germany, France and Japan.

Dukes is survived by Mira Dukes, his wife and business partner of 36 years and a niece and nephew, Tracy Gielski of Vero Beach, Fl. and Jeffery Williams of Lake Stevens, WA.

“Design was his life,” Mira said of Stacy. “That was just what he did."

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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