January 2, 1917 ~ November 29, 2019

Born in: Oriental, NC
Resided in: Asheville, NC

In 1917, the United States entered WW I, the National Hockey League was founded, Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated for his second term, the US mail rate increased to 3 cents, the first woman member of the US House of Representatives was elected in Montana, and New York State gave women the right to vote in state elections.

In Oriental, NC, a more significant event occurred with the birth on January 2, 1917, of Sybil Louise Silverthorn to the late Samuel L. and Hattie Dowty Silverthorn. After almost 103 years, Sybil peacefully passed during the night of November 29, 2019, in Asheville.

Sybil finished high school at the age of 15 and earned her Bachelor’s degree from East Carolina Teacher’s College (ECTC; currently East Carolina University) and her Master’s in Mathematics from Western Carolina University.

She began teaching math and science in 1936 at Barnardsville High School. Over the next 43 years she educated middle and high school students at Flat Creek, Fort Myers, FL, Hall Fletcher, West Buncombe, and Erwin High School. During her summer breaks, she served as a demonstration teacher at WCU’s lab schools in Cullowhee and later taught math extension courses for WCU.

Sybil was married to fellow educator, Randall Duckett, for 48 years until his death in 1988. For the 1955-56 academic year, they each were awarded a Ford Fellowship to study secondary and college education in five states in four regions of the U.S. and to visit national parks and other historic sites. They received additional funding so that their children could be included in their fellowship travels. Sybil’s top honor was being selected the North Carolina Educator of the Year in 1972. She officially retired January 31, 1979, after serving five years as the math coordinator for the Buncombe County School System.

She later married Malcolm Gamble and they spent 30 years together until his death October 19, 2019.

Many know her as Mrs. Duckett or Sybil, others as, Mrs. Gamble. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren call her Mamaw Sybil, and her two children proudly call her Mom. She is survived by her daughter, Laura Duckett (Jim Kangas), Laura’s two children, Kris Newton (Chris Klein), their two sons and Randy Newton (Amber Newton) and their daughter and son; her son, Tom Duckett (Paula Duckett), their two children, Amy Corcell (Mike Corcell) and their two sons and daughter, and Zac Duckett (Annie Duckett) and their son and daughter.

Also surviving her are Mr. Gamble’s children, H.M. “Mickey” Gamble, Jr., Robert Thomas Gamble, and Sue Ellen Gamble Cannon, and eight step-grandchildren.
Mrs. Gamble spent her last five years with an additional and important family, the wonderful, remarkable, professional and caring staff at Arbor Terrace Assisted Living in Asheville. They cannot be thanked enough.

A memorial service to celebrate Sybil’s life will be held on Saturday, December 14, at 4:00 p.m. in the Patton Avenue chapel of Groce Funeral Home with the Rev. Nancy Dixon Walton officiating.

The family will receive friends from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m., prior to the service.

Because of how much Sybil and her first husband valued education, The Randall and Sybil Duckett Endowed Scholarship, was created at Western Carolina University in 2017 to benefit both education students and teachers from Buncombe County Schools. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be directed to the Randall and Sybil Duckett Endowed Scholarship at the Western Carolina University Foundation, 1 University Dr., 201 HF Robinson Administration Building, Cullowhee, NC, 28723, or to http://give.wcu.edu/duckett.


Visitation: December 14, 2019 2:30 pm - 4:00 pm

Groce Funeral Home - Patton Ave.
1401 Patton Ave.
Asheville, NC 28806


Memorial Service: December 14, 2019 4:00 pm

Groce Funeral Home - Patton Ave.
1401 Patton Ave.
Asheville, NC 28806


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  1. My husband and I both had her as a teacher at West buncombe.
    She taught us well. We wish her family may know how special she was. She and her first husband (Randall Duckett) both taught us.
    May God bless her and keep her family.

  2. Dear Laura, I am so sorry to learn of your dear Mother’s passing. I have many fond memories of her and the good times we shared at your house. May God comfort you and all the family. Love, Gwen and Marcus

  3. My condolences to your family. I have many fond memories of the years we worked together as math coordinators in Buncombe County. May light perpetual shine on her.

  4. Dear Laura, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your mom. She was a truly wonderful lady and the world has suffered a great loss. I remember her as a great teacher, mother and hostess at pajama parties. Please accept my condolences!

  5. I am so sorry .You all are in my thoughts and prayers. Mrs.Duckett was one of my favorite teachers. She was always so sweet and kind.

  6. Mrs. Duckett’s exemplary teaching skills brought out the best in her students. She certainly left her mark on me…I use her name today as “My Favorite School Teacher” for internet accounts.
    All my best to the family…she was a Treasure!

  7. Mrs. Gambill’s first husband, Randall, and my Dad, the late Francis Huntley (Principal at A.C. Reynolds, Rosa Edwards in Hendersonville, Polkville School in Cleveland County and Taylors, SC School) were the best of friends. I learned early on, being in the home of educators, that it was a calling. Mrs. Gambill and also my Mother, the late Blaine Blankenship Huntley (Fairview Elementary School teacher) completed the circle; all educators. To the family of Mrs. Gambill and her many friends and former students, my deepest sympathy in her passing and a life well lived. Gerry Huntley, A.C. Reynolds Class of 1965.

  8. Dear Laura, your mom will be sorely missed! What a life she had and shared in recent years with the students from Erwin. Everyone just loved and admired her so much. Your dad was my principal at Emma. Your mom taught the other first grade there when I started school. She has always been in our lives. I know she was very proud of you. Lots of hugs and prayers for you and your family. May God comfort each one of you. Love, Paula

  9. Amazing life. Almost 103. The changes she witnessed over the years were remarkable. We didn’t know her well, but our son said Miss Sybil made the best scrambled eggs.

    • My grandmother (“Mamaw”) had an amazing life that left an indelible impression on countless students, friends, and family members.

      We will always love you!

  10. Fleming and I are so sorry about your loss. When my mother died many years ago, I cried. As an adult this was one out of only two times that I cried. Mothers are indeed very special.

  11. First she became my teacher ( to this day I consider the best teacher, 1954 and 1966, I ever had) then she introduced me to her son, 1965, who remains as my best and dearest friend. She (and Randall and Malcolm and Laura and all the extended family) have felt like my family. I loved that lady! I love the family. Such a grand life for a grand lady even if she did drive like a speed demon!

  12. Aside from my parents almost no one had a more profound impact on my life than Mrs. Duckett. Growing up in her neighborhood was a gift I am forever grateful for…. She was the conscience of little boys but always appreciated our mischief. The world is better for her having passed this way.

  13. Sybil was my algebra teacher at Erwin and she always made the class interesting by starting out with a story to capture our attention. I was amazed at how she could remember all the students and could tell you all about their families. She has made an impact on so many people and made everyone feel important. RIP my dear friend.

  14. ” Mrs Duckett ” as I called her, was full of life and funny stories. My fondest memory will always be watching her dance with Malcome at our 40th class reunion. She was a special Lady!!

  15. Sandra Jones Lee Mobile, Al.
    Sybil and Randall Duckett were my neighbors while I was growing up in the fifties in Asheville. I especially remember the movies that the Ducketts showed through a projector on the side of their white house in our neighborhood. We children were invited to join their students for viewing. Much love to Laura Jean and Tommy. Your parents made me want to be a teacher. Wonderful people and a positive influence.

  16. Love and to Laura Jean and Tommy. I grew up in your neighborhood in the fifties. Your wonderful parents, Sybil and Randall, were great fun and inspired me to become a teacher. I shall never forget their inviting the Jones children to watch movies ,with their students, which were projected on the north side of your house.

  17. Growing up across the street from the Duckett’s was a blessing for which I will be forever grateful. Sybil and Randall let us be kids, while expecting much from us as they taught us at every turn. I started First Grade reading on a third grade level thanks to Sybil’s “fun and games” teaching.
    Laura and Tommy were my and my brother Steve’s best friends for many years. Thank you for sharing your parents, your family, with us. It was always an adventure of the best kind.
    Time and the years have flown by, and thankfully the good memories remain in my mind and my heart.

  18. The Bridges family and the Duckett family were friends prior to WW 2. When Randal went into service, my father Gardner became boys and girls coach for five years at West Buncombe High School. When I was in seventh grade, Mrs. Duckett and my sister taught eighth grade and they had the privilege of witnessing a spanking by my seventh grade teacher. Later Sibyl and Randall taught me at Erwin High School . Jewel taught for many years with Sibyl and had the experience of having Tommy in class her first year of teaching. When we catered at Brigadoon, she always had something to give us, pictures, ect. The last time we had the privilege of visiting her at Arbor Terrace she showed us all her memorabilia. We will surely miss her and her contribution to education.

  19. What a life! I’m sorry we will be unable to attend the service; I will be in Fl.
    Thinking of all of you and reminiscing.
    Lee Roy and Linda Briggs

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