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James Francis Duffy Sr., 92 years young, of West Dennis, Massachusetts, and Naples, Florida, died on March 14, 2023. He was predeceased by his beloved wife of 61 years, Meriel Clancy, his high school sweetheart, a love story for the ages. Born on Feb. 5, 1931, in Belmont, Massachusetts to Edward and Mary (O’Neil) Duffy, he grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was predeceased by his brothers, Edward Jr., Willard, and a sister, Virginia.
Jim was a Boston College hockey legend, college coach, a business entrepreneur, an avid golfer and sailor, a marathon runner, a mentor to many young athletes, and a devoted husband and father. Jim and Meriel built a wonderful family life for themselves and their four cherished children, eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. They raised their family in Natick and spent every summer on the Cape for more than 50 years. Jim will be deeply missed by all who knew him. He was a kind and generous man with a huge heart who always put his family first. He had a great sense of humor and a contagious laugh that would light up any room. Authentic and sincere, he was a role model for young and old alike.
Jimmy Duffy, as he was known to his friends, had many talents. Always a strong swimmer, he was a lifeguard for many summers at Cambridge City pools as a teenager. Few also knew he was an excellent horseman. He grew up on Fresh Pond in Cambridge and as a kid worked at the horse stables across the pond from his house in the 1940s. He cleaned the stalls and the owners let him ride the horses whenever he wanted. Many years later he was on West Dennis beach with Meriel and their kids when a woman on horseback, bareback, rode up to them. To their amazement, he jumped on in his bathing suit, gave a little kick and off he went like John Wayne.
Jim in particular excelled at hockey. As a kid, he skated regularly outdoors on the Charles River, Fresh Pond, and Spy Pond, at a time when there was only a handful of rinks in the Boston area. He was a Greater Boston All Star at Rindge Technical High School in Cambridge. In 1949, he won a US National Ice Hockey Championship with the Feloni Club of Cambridge. Heavily recruited by all the major East Coast college hockey powers, it was the legendary coach Snooks Kelly of Boston College who convinced him BC was the right place. At BC, he was a prolific goal scorer, and still ranks as one of the top point producers of all time, with one of the highest points per game average. He was fearless and driven on the ice to win for his team. Among Jim’s achievements while at BC: 1951-1952 season Freshman Phenom; 1953-54 season BC team top goal scorer; and in 1954, led the team to win the first Beanpot Tournament at Boston Garden, 4-1. Jim scored two goals and an assist that game, leading the tournament in goals and assists at the Beanpot during that inaugural year. He also had five career hat tricks. He remained close friends with his BC teammates for the rest of his life.
After BC, he landed a position with The New England Telephone Company, while playing minor pro hockey for the Worcester Warriors in the East Coast Hockey League and refereeing high school and college games to support his young wife and newborn daughter, Schyla. He had an incredibly successful career with New England Telephone for 33 years as the account lead for many major national enterprises like General Electric and the federal government. He was known for his hard work and dedication, and his colleagues and clients alike appreciated his honesty, expertise, and professionalism.
During the Korean war, he was a stateside Master Sergeant in the Massachusetts National Guard.
For 10 years, he coached at Framingham State College men’s hockey team and won the 1978-79 ECAC and NCAA National Championships. Along the way, he helped numerous young hockey players get recruited for college scholarships at top schools around the country.
After “retiring” from New England Telephone, Jim formed his own company called TEM Systems, which he ran with Meriel and a small staff. TEM systems became a major distributor of NYNEX Systems Marketing. He also completed the Boston Marathon twice while in his 50s.
It may be no surprise that Jim would step up whenever possible to help those in need. For example, he once rescued a young boy from drowning who was being swept out to sea in a strong current. He dove into the chilly October water and heroically saved him, while Meriel helped the boy's father to safety from shore. For those efforts, he was awarded the prestigious Vail Medal for Noteworthy Public Service from AT&T.
While Jim was known for his athleticism and business acumen, his true passion was his wife and family. He would often note that his biggest score was the love of his life, Meriel. Outside of work, Jim had many interests and hobbies, and in particular loved excelling in golf. He and Meriel were original members of the West Dennis Yacht Club, starting in 1966, and in 1974 won the club’s coveted Labor Day Regatta aboard the family’s beetle cat, “Duff’s Luff.” They also had many dear friends at the Foxfire Country Club in Naples where they wintered for more than 40 years. Indeed, he played 18 holes of golf two days before his passing.
Jim will be remembered as a devoted husband, a caring father, and a proud grandfather and great-grandfather who always put his family first. He is survived by his daughter, Schyla Duffy St. Laurent and her husband Jonathan St. Laurent of Lovell, Maine, son Jim Duffy Jr. and his wife Susan Duffy of Bay Head, New Jersey, son Mark Duffy of Natick, Massachusetts, and son Shaun Duffy and his wife Martine Costello Duffy of Newton, Massachusetts; and grandchildren Seth Lytle, Julian Wolfgang St. Laurent, Oursan O’Neil St. Laurent, Jourdan St. Laurent, Jordan Duffy, Sasha Milanese, Jake Duffy (Jim’s namesake, James Clancy Duffy), and Anna Duffy; and great-grandchildren Nyomi, Jericho, Lydia, Guinevere, and Emmaline St. Laurent, and Declan and Luke Lytle.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held Saturday, March 25, 2023 at 11 a.m. in St. Peter Parish, 100 Concord Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Calling hours will be Friday, March 24, 2023 in the Brown & Hickey Funeral Home, 36 Trapelo Road, Belmont, Massachusetts, from 4 to 7 p.m. Donations may be made in Jim’s name to support Cambridge city youth athletics at the following GoFundMe link: https://gofund.me/bb1e8f44 the family is setting up a formal scholarship fund in his memory, with details to come. A memorial service at Foxfire Country Club in Naples, Florida, will also be held at a later date. Burial will be private.