James G. Duddy, a lifelong resident of Arlington and retired MBTA employee, passed away peacefully with his family at his bedside on Tuesday night, March 5, 2019. He was 91 years old. Jim was born in the family home on Dartmouth Street in Arlington. He was one of four children born to Irish Immigrants, Patrick and Annie Duddy. He grew up in Arlington and graduated from Somerville Trade School. He served in the Army during the Korean War as a Private in the 506th Quarter Master Company. He served 2 years and was the recipient of the Korean Service Medal with 1 Bronze Service Star and the United Nations Service Medal. He continued his support of America’s armed forces as a member of the Arlington chapter of the American Legion. He was also a member of Arlington’s Knights of Columbus.
Jim worked as a salesman for Gerber Foods for 16 years before changing his career to become a bus driver for the MBTA. He spent 25 years with the MBTA. His regular routes included Park Circle (78), Mass Ave (77), Belmont (74), and the Bedford VA (76).
Jim was a talented man who enjoyed working with his hands to create something from nothing. He loved spending hours in his workshop carving and painting. He made countless carved signs, doll houses with furniture, jewelry boxes for the neighborhood children and even walking sticks. If you liked one of his paintings, he would not give it to you; he would paint another one for you. He was always eager to learn more and regularly attended art and carving classes at the Woburn Art Association and at Grace Chapel in Lexington. The homes of his children, nieces and nephews and friends are filled with numerous paintings and carvings that will always remind them of Jim’s talents and more importantly that he spent so much time creating something special for those he loved.
He had an outgoing personality and possessed a quick wit that always kept you on your toes. Jim always had a story to tell, including how when he was young, he and his friends would “borrow” a horse at night and raise havoc in the farms on the acre; about his dog Kim that he rescued and befriended in Korea; going to boxing matches at Dilboy filed with his father and brothers; and trips to his Uncle Larry’s cottage in Duxbury with the family. The fishing poles from these Duxbury trips are still in the cellar on Robbins Road. You could not leave his doctor’s office in East Arlington without being reminded that he dug graves at Saint Paul’s cemetery. Or, that the big blue water tank near the Lahey looked just like the gasoline storage tank he guarded in Korea.
Jim was happiest working in his shop and around his home, tending to his flower gardens, walking around Spy Pond, and being a part of the lives of his children and grandchildren.
Jim was the beloved husband of forty-nine years to the late Eileen S. (Keohane) Duddy. He was the loving father of James & his wife Gina of Arlington, Maureen of Arlington, Larry & his wife Ann of Maynard, and Cathy of Arlington. He was predeceased by his siblings and their spouses; John Duddy, Mary Purdy & her husband William, and Patrick Duddy & his wife Mary. He was the proud grandfather of Lauren, Ellen, Colleen, Kerrin, and Sean Duddy. He was also survived by many in-laws, nieces, nephews, and friends.
Visiting hours will be held at the Edward V. Sullivan Funeral Home, 43 Winn St., Burlington (exit 34 off Rt. 128/95, Woburn side) on Sunday, March 10 from 5-8 p.m. Funeral services from the Sullivan Funeral Home on Monday, March 11 at 8:45 a.m. Followed by a Mass of Christian Burial in St. Agnes Church, Medford St., Arlington at 10 a.m. Relatives and friends are respectfully invited. The burial will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorials in Jim’s name may be made to the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, 60 Pond Lane, Arlington, MA 02474 or www.abgclub.org.
Eulogy by Larry
I was told that I had five minutes to summarize my father’s 91 years on this earth, which is an impossible task. If I tried to individually thank each person that helped him over the past few years, I would still be standing here tomorrow. Our father was the last of the Dartmouth Street Duddys, having outlived his sister Mary and brothers John and Patrick. He always told us that his childhood was full of laughs. Both his mother and father were witty, and he obviously inherited that gene. He went to the Somerville Trade School to be an electrician, but he admitted that he was afraid of electricity, so he never pursued that trade. He said that he really wanted to be a carpenter.
When the Korean War broke out, he was drafted into the Army. He served in the Quartmaster Corps in Korea for two years. He told the story of how he rescued a German Shephard and nursed it back to health. He named the dog Kim and she was his constant companion and watch dog until he lost her.
After the war, he returned to Dartmouth Street and worked at several jobs such as house painter, roofer, laborer at Simplex Cable and then got a job as a salesman at Gerber Baby Foods. He married the Keohane girl that he asked to dance and they stayed together for just shy of 49 years. At Gerber, he got a new company car every two years. The first thing he would do with the new car is take it down to his friend Jasper to disconnect the seatbelt buzzer. After Gerber, he went to work as a bus driver with the MBTA. As kids, we would often meet his bus at Park Circle and ride along with him all day on Sunday afternoons.
He was an entrepreneur. With his brother John and some friends, they opened U-Clean, a coin-operated, self-serve dry cleaner in East Arlington. The venture struggled and they decided to close the business after about six months, but he wasn’t afraid to try.
He was an inventor. When we were kids, he drew up a design for a solar-powered hot water heater using pipes that would mount on the roof of the house, but he never built it.
We too, grew up in a home full of laughter. When we were all little, we would go to our grandfather’s house on Dartmouth Street on Friday nights. On the way home one rainy Friday night, he turned left onto Pleasant Street from Mass Ave, but didn’t wait for the green arrow. He was pulled over by a policeman and as the officer approached the car, my mother told him, “you’re gonna get a ticket for that”. He smiled and replied, “oh no I’m not.” He turned to all of the kids in the back seat and told us to start crying. When the policeman reached the window, my father rolled it down and said, “I’m sorry, but these kids are screaming and crying in my ear. I’m just trying to get them home to bed”. The officer let him go with a warning.
Then there’s the time when I was about 5 that I locked myself in the bathroom by mistake. My father tried all kinds of things to get the door open but couldn’t, so he told me to sit tight while he made a phone call. In the meantime, I climbed out the bathroom window, down the porch stairs and came into the house through the basement door. My father was on the phone in his basement office. I came up behind him and asked him who he was talking to. He said he was calling the fire department to get me out of the bathroom. I said, “but I’m already out of the bathroom. I climbed out the window”. He turned around and said, no you’re not. You’re going right back in through that window. I’m not paying a locksmith when the fire department can get the door opened for free and they won’t do that if there isn’t a kid stuck in there. So back in I went, just as the fire truck pulled up out front.
My father and I both teased my mother constantly. She would often say you two are like two peas in a pod. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out that she didn’t always mean that as a compliment, but that’s how I always understood it.
When he retired from the MBTA, that was just an excuse to do something different, so he got a job as a janitor at the Fidelity house and then St. Agnes School. He was always available to help his friends and family with projects. He would try anything. If it was suggested that perhaps we hire a professional, he would always say that a professional is just a guy that is willing to take your money for something that you can do yourself. All he asked in return was for a submarine sandwich for lunch.
He tried to get our mother to travel. They took bus tours, cruises and a trip to Italy. He worked in his flower garden and built a Coy pond in the backyard. He picked up his art again, taking classes at Grace Chapel and then at the Woburn Senior Center. He also took up wood carving. He made a scale model of his house, complete with hand-carved furniture. He carved signs which adorn some of our houses. Eagles, ducks, a walking stick for Jimmy and jewelry boxes for the neighborhood girls. He could work for hours at a time on his paintings and carvings. If he saw a picture in a magazine or a landscape that he liked, he would paint it. If you were at the wake last night, you were privileged to attend his first solo art show. He made so many pictures and carvings that we could never hang them all up at our homes. So, we are having another Jim Duddy art show at the Café Escadrille after this service. We ask that you come up and enjoy some good food and conversation and see if you can find a piece of his work for your home. If you do, please take it and display it proudly. As any art connoisseur knows, the value of an artist’s work can skyrocket after his passing, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get an original Jim Duddy piece.
He had a scores of friends over his long life, and you might think that at 91 years old he would have outlived them all, but he didn’t. He had a crew of about a dozen friends that met at the Legion for lunch once or twice a week several years. That group dwindled to 3 in recent months, but they stuck to the tradition as best as they could. As the old friends passed, he made new friends at his art and carving classes, so in reality, he could never run out of friends.
As the ladies at the art class know, most of his comments had more than one meaning, which kept the classes interesting. His final project was a dairy cow, painted on a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood. He saw one in a yard in Lexington and had Sean go into the yard to take a picture of it. His plan was to prop it up in his yard so that Gina could see it when she looked out of her kitchen window. I suggested that he surprise her and put it in her backyard instead. He thought that was a better idea. So, if his friends from art class are willing to finish the cow, I will gladly pick it up and plant it in Jim and Gina’s yard.
In his later years, the artwork slowed just a little bit and the Doctor visits became more frequent. So frequent in fact, that Jimmy was probably contemplating early retirement to keep up with the schedule.
I called my father Cathy’s special project, because she tweaked his diet and gave him exercises to do. She did his laundry and shopping and brought him dinner once a week. Gina would send over dinners and he always enjoyed his meals on wheels. He would come to our house for dinners on Sundays often as well. I don’t think he ever turned the stove on after my mother died.
He always worried about Maureen flying so much, but he enjoyed teasing her. He fell in the house once and Maureen took him to the doctor to get him checked out. He had a black eye and sore ribs. When the doctor asked how he got the black eye, he pointed at Maureen and said “she did it”.
As proud as he was of his children, he was even more proud of his grandchildren. He tried to keep up with everything they were doing and was always glad to have them visit or call. He painted pictures for them as well.
His nephew Chris called him a few days before he passed, which was probably the last real conversation he had on this earth. The first thing my father said to Chris was “I thought you were dead. I didn’t get a Christmas card from you this year.” When Pat and Barbara came to visit him at the Hospice house, he couldn’t converse with them, but he did ask to sit up while they were there. With all of the people in the room, it got a little loud (kind of like the wake last night), and he did his best to keep his eyes open and follow the conversations.
In his final days, he wanted to make sure that the family stayed together after he was gone. We all promised to do that and proved it by staying by his side until his final breath. We always joked that he would be around for a long time, because our mother was still enjoying the peace and quiet up in Heaven. Well Mom, you had ten years to prepare, so as you said to us about Dad just before you passed, Good luck to you kid.
Which reminds me of a joke that my father loved to hear. Imagine the husband and wife are my mother and father….
A husband and wife were married for 49 years. They were inseparable. The wife passed away. When she got to the pearly gates of Heaven, St. Peter greeted her and said if she passed a simple one-word spelling test, she could enter. If she spelled it wrong, she had to go back to the end of the line to try again. The word was “love”. She spelled the word correctly and entered Heaven. St. Peter said that he had to step away from the gates for a few minutes and he asked if she could fill in for him until he got back. She agreed.
In the meantime, her husband of 49 years died shortly after her, of a broken heart. When he reached the gates of Heaven soon after his wife, he was thrilled to see that she was there to greet him. “Not so fast” said the wife. “Before you can come in you have to spell a word. Get it right and you come in. Get it wrong, and you go back to the end of the line again.”
“What’s the word?” asked the husband. The wife said “Lo…..-Czechoslovakia”.