Fall River’s Duke’s Bakery’s ‘Big Gay Tree’ Celebrates Pride
In 2012, my aunt Dorry Silvia and her life partner Chris Holden founded Duke's Bakery in Fall River. Duke's is the SouthCoast's first and only fully gluten-free bakery. The bakery was founded to cater to an ever-growing population of people with gluten sensitivity.
Over the past decade, Dorry – affectionately known as "Mama Dukes" – and Chris had built a close-knit community, a community that had not only broke gluten-free bread together, but helped many charitable causes throughout the area.
Last July, Dorry passed away after a resilient bout with cancer. Despite her passing, Dorry's presence is still felt every morning when Duke's opens its doors, not just in the recipes of the delicious pastries and cuisine, or the photos of her and her late brother, my uncle David Silvia, who worked as a chef at Duke's until his passing in 2019, but also in Duke's now famous "Giving Tree," a year-round holiday tree Dorry had erected shortly before her diagnosis.
The tree is decorated with a holiday theme for each month, and Dorry would often invite customers to join her in placing gifts under the tree to be donated to charitable causes such as a toy drive for underprivileged children or gifts to local police officers to show appreciation for their service.
Before her passing, Dorry asked Chris to keep the tree at the bakery and continue decorate it each month. Last fall, Chris started the annual "Dorry's Giving Tree" fundraiser, where customers can purchase a specialized mug with the proceeds going to charity.
With June being Pride Month, Chris wanted to celebrate Duke's being a thriving lesbian-founded and owned business and adorn the tree with the rainbow motif that recognizes the LGBTQ+ community's victories and continued struggles in the fight for fundamental human rights. Chris said she has been heartened by the response to what she affectionately calls her "The Big Gay Tree."
"Everyone has been so supportive," Chris said. "Just the other day, a young girl asked her mother what the rainbows mean on the tree and the mother said, 'It means that you can love whoever you want.'"
The tree will keep its "Big Gay" theme until July 1, at which point Chris will be marking the one-year anniversary of Dorry's passing and giving the Duke's community an opportunity to celebrate her life. Customers will be able to stop by and write a note to Dorry and hang it on the tree.
My Aunt Dorry passed on from the world leaving an unparalleled legacy of kindness and generosity. The Duke's Giving Tree and the bakery itself remains a symbol of her charitable spirit and continued positive impact on the community.
Marcus Ferro will be broadcasting live from Duke's Bakery Saturday, June 25 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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