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His father's hero

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - After receiving the 911 Hero Medal of Honor award, seven-year-old Devin Duke takes a photo with Red E. Fox, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials mascot.Heroes can be called to action in many ways, including their love for the people closest to them.

Estacada has such a hero.

At a Wednesday, March 9, conference at the Oregon Convention Center, 7-year-old Devin Duke was awarded the 911 Hero Medal of Honor for his efforts to help his late father, Mike Duke.

The award is presented to people who distinguish themselves with their bravery while calling 911, as well as the emergency dispatcher they worked with.

The Medal of Honor is awarded by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, an international organization that provides safety expertise and outreach. The award was established in 1999 and is presented in the United States, Canada and Grand Cayman Islands.

Clackamas County emergency dispatcher Lori Gillingham was honored along with Devin.

Two years ago, Devin woke up one morning in the Milwaukie home he and his father shared to find him asleep on the couch. He tried to wake his father, but he was unresponsive.

“He kissed his dad to try to wake him up,” said Devin’s grandmother, Rebecca Bennison. “Then he tried to feed him Captain Crunch, but he still didn’t respond.”

Bennison then happened to call Mike’s cell phone. When she spoke to Devin, she knew something was wrong.

Shortly thereafter, Bennison dialed 911 and spoke to Gillingham.

When responders arrived, they discovered that Devin was alone. He had figured out a way to let them in by standing on a chair to unlock a high lock on the front door.

“I was really proud of him,” Bennison said. “He used the resources that were available to him to do everything he could.”

Mike passed away that day of congestive heart failure.

The Medal of Honor is usually given to the person who makes the 911 call. In this case, it was Devin’s grandmather who notified emergency responders. But it was Devin who had done everything in his power to help his dad.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: REBECCA BENNISON - Mike Duke holds his newborn son Devin. When Mike passed away in 2014, Devin did all he could to help with the situation.

“He’s the important piece,” Gillingham said at the conference. “We’re here because of him.”

Devin and his dad were best friends, which made losing him particularly hard.

“They were very close,” Bennison said. “They would have guys nights together, where they stayed in and watched movies and ate pizza.”

Devin, who is being raised by his aunt and uncle in addition to Bennison, has lived in Estacada for two years. Bennison believes his ability to connect with others helped him get through his loss.

“We enrolled him in preschool a month after Mike passed, and being around other kids really helped,” Bennison said. “He’s willing to put his heart out to anybody.”

Devin can easily connect with just about anyone.

“He makes friends wherever we go,” Bennison said. “He can carry on an adult conversation or have silly fun with his friends.”

Devin’s teacher at Clackamas River Elementary School, Lindsey Fullenwider, thought it was fitting that he was acknowledged for his heroism. She said he’s always eager to help his peers.

“If someone is feeling sad, he’s the first one to point it out,” Fullenwider said. “He’s always aware of other people and how he can help them.”

Bennison has noticed her grandson’s thoughtfulness as well.

“He’s really got a magical quality of love about him,” she said.

In order to continue helping others, Devin hopes to eventually study law enforcement at the University of Oregon and become a police officer.

He was excited to receive the award.

“I feel proud about winning,” he said. “I think my dad would be proud too.”