Kathryn Alice (Quinn) Dufficy

August 26, 1926 - June 19, 2015

  I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree ...

 

Eulogy for Mom
by Thomas E. Dufficy
June 30, 2015

A week or so ago, Mom asked me to say a few words on this occasion; she asked that I remain both brief and dignified.

Now apart from the fact that neither of those things represent particular strong points of mine, the task is made more difficult yet by virtue of Mom’s depth of character, her contributions to, and experiences of, life. That’s a lot to fit in within the definition of “brief”, but I’ll do my best.

What a great Day this is for Mom! And what a melancholy day it is for the rest of us who are left at our gray dockside as her splendid vessel departs on the greatest voyage of her existence.

It’s a voyage she’s paid for on the installment plan through a rich life of joy, service and fealty to her Lord.

She waves from a balcony, growing more youthful and beautiful with each yard her ship drifts from the pier; there is confetti in the air; a band is playing—all composed of trumpets — as befits, despite the fragility of her tiny frame, one of the great heavyweight champions of our day!

She is sorry to leave us, but she has others to be with for now, and she knows she will see us again.

Kathryn was the second oldest of eight children. She was second oldest in years, but in every other way she was without question, the oldest.

Her mother, Clara, was a gentle and cultured daughter of a Wisconsin farmer.

Her father, Joseph, was an Irishman, not long off the boat. He was a hardworking man who started two tiny businesses—one hauling trash and the other selling eggs. He had also been a jockey and a prize fighter. On weekends, Joseph took the family up along Clear Creek where they’d picnic and he’d pan for gold, thereby earning a few more dollars.

My Mom and her father had a close and somewhat contentious relationship. It was she who, barely more than a baby would be sent to collect him when he was out too late, or perhaps when he was with a drinking crowd. Once she appeared and announced that her father was needed at home; this time he complained, somewhat sharply. Rather than being intimidated, this mite of a child stamped her foot and, as only she could, demanded then and there that he follow her. He softened and, smiling, did so. And he never defied his little girl with the heart of a lion again. Already he understood what all of us would eventually come to learn, that the most perilous place to be was between that girl and what she knew was right.

Sometime later her father was quarantined with whooping cough. This was something that happened in those days. While quarantined in a hospital, his business partner absconded with all of their shared savings. He lost everything, including the Model T which was the source of his income.

Several months later he took his life, having hoped in a moment of fear and sorrow that the proceeds of an insurance policy might provide better for his family than he could. It was Kathryn, nine years old at the time of his death, who he spoke his last words to. They were words of contrition. “Cassie, I’m sorry’, he told her. It was Kathryn’s testimony about her father’s last words of remorse that provided her mother with the consolation that she desperately needed and insured that her Father would be buried in union with the Church that he loved.

The insurance policy, alas, due to the circumstances of his death, was revoked. More and worse poverty followed. There was hunger on cold nights, no shoes in the summertime, and a brood of very young children who sometimes overwhelmed their mother.

Kathryn, being preternaturally strong of spirit, became the champion and protector of all. They relied on her and no doubt, probably feared her spirit a little.

She once marched her bare-foot siblings back downtown where a shoe salesman had earlier sent the children home, having refused to redeem their government coupons for shoes. Kathryn insisted, and, ultimately, and quite naturally, the man complied. What else was he to do when faced with a child such as that?

When she got her first job, she paid to repaper their house; when she got her first bonus, she brought her mother downtown on the streetcar and bought her mother her first new wardrobe.

She cherished, worried over and took joy in each of her brothers and sisters throughout the years, but there was one who was and who remained the dearest to her, and one who never brought her anything but happiness, kinship and support. Indeed she has been the indispensable friend, and the only person to our knowledge who gave more to Mom throughout her life than she received from Mom--and it’s fitting that her sister, Corinne, survives her. Mom’s face lit up every time Corinne entered a room (I wonder if we can take a moment, although I know she will not approve, to thank Aunt Corinne, who we all know to be a true hero).

Now I’m not going to follow with the story about how as a child Aunt Corrine
knocked the pins out of the hinges to a locked door so she could get at Mom’s first pair of high heels, whereupon she sawed off the heels so she could wear them to play out in the yard.—but I guess I just told the story. Sorry Aunt Corrine.

Mom was hired by an investment firm named Peters Writer. She eventually became executive assistant to the boss. He was a kindly man who was given to high spirits. On the days when he would sneak from the office to play cards and imbibe with his friends, he would tell Kathryn to cover for him should his wife call. Ever after, whenever the boss was out and his wife called, Kathryn would promptly tell the boss’ wife exactly where he was and when he’d gone. (Mad Men would have been a much shorter series and had fewer plot complications if Mom had worked in that office). Yet, her boss never held it against her; in fact he was rather amused by and admired her indomitable integrity.

Later, when our brother Dan was in the local news for having contracted a rare disease, a touching letter of concern and condolence appeared in the mail. It was from this man’s wife, who still remembered and appreciated that girl of forty years earlier.

Because of her life’s history, Kathryn was not naturally given to light spirits and optimism. Her heart’s resources were usually spent worrying-- always about other people. However, one day she met a shy, handsome young man back from the Pacific War. They dated and the young man eventually fortified his courage enough to offer her a ring, which she declined.

During the weekend that followed, she kept thinking about the young man’s obvious kindness; about his sense of humor, and his charming, light-hearted way of looking at life. She realized then how much she would miss those things.
She called him up the following Monday and said, “Bill, I think I’d like that ring back”.

Indeed, Dad brought to her the one indispensable ingredient that completed her personality. He taught Kathryn to laugh. He taught her to laugh and she learned so well that it became, second to the depth of their shared faith, the main outward feature of their marriage.

The two of them taught all of us, and we learned it so well that it became the main feature of our family, the laughter we share when together. Laughter is love in our family, and kidding is the highest compliment. Although it seems far away at this time of sorrow, we will return to it, and soon, because we must. It’s our legacy.

Mom came from eight, and she had eight of her own: Mary, Bill Tim, Jim, me, Daniel, Kevin and Clara.

Soon after Clara’s birth Mom required an operation, which precluded having any more children. She approached Dad sometime later—he was working two jobs at the time—and suggested adoption, because she felt she had more to give God than only eight. “No, Kathryn,” Dad responded, “I think eight is about right!!”

It always seemed there were more than eight, because we always had other children at our table: Parish Children who were having trouble— Corvette or Quincy might be here tonight—as well as cousins, neighborhood children, grandparents and bachelor uncles, old folks in the neighborhood, our priests and even a few times for luncheons, those most sublime, beautiful and terrifying of creatures, the nuns.

Mom’s door was always open and her table always had an extra place whenever either was needed or sought. Later, Mom informally adopted another son, a dear friend who has become our oldest but not necessarily our most mature brother, Monsignor McDaid. Mom was always absorbed in her efforts to raise our collective IQ. She probably felt that by adding Tony she might finally up our average. I might add that, in Mom’s eyes, Tony personified the papal doctrine of infallibility.

Although a demure and ladylike woman, Mom could also hike five miles carrying on her back food, an old Coleman stove and a cast-iron frying pan, and at the end cooked dinner on it for twelve. She baked for squadrons, on a daily basis; she organized, encouraged and was the family’s Entertainment Director.

She kept us safe, happy and together. She kept us in school and in church, where we all, without exception, remain today.

Dad was the strong, flexible lumber; Mom was the glue. She inherited from her mother her appreciation and love for her country. Her patriotism was deep and pure. After the crash of 2008, when billionaires were fleeing the markets, she cashed in her burial policy to invest in the economy, hoping that her gesture might, by the tiniest of fractions, provide a note of optimism to contrast with the panic.

Mom read constantly, often of history, but also works of literature, the great literature, introducing us to Herman Melville and Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Hawthorne—the list is endless. Even so, her favorite period in history would remain the Civil war; her favorite subject, Abraham Lincoln. I have a feeling there will be at some time in Heaven a casual meeting of mutual admiration between them.

She made sure there were music lessons for all, and consequently our house was filled with music. When you weren’t working or playing, your activities were supposed to include books or music. And they often did.

There was sadness in her years of family life. She first buried a husband and then a son, but her sorrows never broke her spirit. She found joy and reasons for optimism in life to the end.

She was in many respects a person of another era, a simple era when right and wrong were clearly delineated, clearly understood. To paraphrase Vince Lombardi (Mom was a big football fan), family and faith were not everything … they were the only things.

It is fitting, then, that she passed in the old way, at home, surrounded by her friends—including Marcela, Estelle and Pat—and of course her family, the dozens of them. She passed from this life as she deserved, embraced in love.

I could go on endlessly about the depth of her faith, and her passionate and humble love of Our Savior; of her special affection, and commitment to The Blessed Mother. This love and faith made her both fearless through her suffering and joyous in its denouement.

While those of us left here are broken-hearted at our parting, there is another who radiates a special joy, it is Our King, who, when on the early morning when Kathryn passed into his arms, was then and remains delighted beyond our means to express to be reunited with his little girl with the heart of a lion.

June 30, 2015

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