Right up to his 90s, Francis Dufner made an impression on people with his ability to remember experiences and events, and the names of everyone with whom he came in contact.
“His mind was unbelievable,” said grandson Daniel Dufner. “He could recall everything. He remembered every single person. I told him we were going to Hawaii and, boom, he starts telling me about the World War II museum where Pearl Harbor is. If he went on Jeopardy!, he’d win every time.”
A World War II veteran and a longtime resident of Northeast Philadelphia, Mr. Dufner, 96, died Tuesday, May 12, at the Holy Redeemer Lafayette retirement community of complications from the coronavirus.
Mr. Dufner, known as “Frank,” loved telling stories about his experiences in the Navy, in which he enlisted after graduating from Northeast Catholic High School, and during his four decades with the Pennsylvania Railroad. He was a terrific tour guide, chaperoning bus trips with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A big Eagles fan, Mr. Dufner loved the New Jersey Shore – he lived in Ocean City for a time – and Notre Dame football.
“We spent a lot of time with him and my kids,” Daniel Dufner said. “We celebrated lots of birthdays. We’d go in August, and we would rent for three weeks, so we would see him. He’d come to the beach. We’d come back on the deck and look out at the ocean. He just loved it there.”
In his later years, Mr. Dufner attended two historic Notre Dame games – in 2007 in South Bend, Ind., where Navy broke the Fighting Irish’s 43-game winning streak against the Midshipmen, and in 2013 when No. 1 Notre Dame lost the national championship game to No. 2 Alabama in Miami.
“We were in a suite. He was so overwhelmed and happy to be there,” his grandson said of the 2013 trip. “Everything was great until kickoff, and the game went downhill. There were a few Alabama fans in the suite, and we all became best friends. One of them gave my grandfather his Alabama baseball hat. He had that until he died.”
Six months later, his family took him to Ireland for his 90th birthday, staying in Doonbeg, a village of about 300 people in County Clare, and singing at the local pub.
“They all celebrated with him, and he was up until 3 or 4 in the morning every night,” his grandson said.
In addition to his grandson, Mr. Dufner is survived by wife Gail; sons Daniel, Francis and Michael; daughter Regina; step-daughters Denise and Marilyn; 16 grandchildren; 35 great-grandchildren; five step-grandchildren; 35 great-grandchildren; and seven step-great-grandchildren.