Kathleen Duffy never lacked for energy, even as she entered her 80s and 90s. That verve was driven by her love of reading and of speaking with young people.
“What mattered to her and what gave her energy was people, the younger the better,” her daughter, Bernadette Battista, said in her eulogy at her mother’s funeral. “She said old people only talked about their aches and pains. She was well known to tell her peers – old people – to get up and start moving.”
That included her early days at a nursing home, where “she would gather the newbies to encourage them to go to activities, especially the activities that involved dancing or chocolate,” her daughter said.
The fifth of seven children, Mrs. Duffy, 100, died Wednesday, April 22, at Bryn Mawr Hospital from complications related to the coronavirus. She had lived in Philadelphia and Yeadon, and moved to Broomall after her husband died in 2003.
She displayed her energy early, winning dance competitions as a young adult. Her avid reading of The Inquirer and the Evening Bulletin from front to back every day, and Time and Life every week, gave her “a fully informed vision of world affairs,” her daughter said. She was active in her community, and worked as a precinct captain and inspector for Democrats in her ward.
Mrs. Duffy never liked talking about her age; her daughter said she “truly ignored and lied about it her whole life.” Given her vigor, it would be difficult for others to guess.
“She never lost her passion to live and to experience new people,” her daughter said. “She knew everyone had a story to tell, and she wanted to hear it. She had that Irish gift of gab, which was also her secret to longevity. People were easily drawn to the twinkle in her blue eyes and the chocolate that she always had in her handbag.”
Mrs. Duffy also enjoyed four-mile walks, spending time with family, getting together with friends and neighbors, and continuing to dance.
“Families at the nursing home would stop me to let me know how much of an impact my mother made on their loved ones’ lives,” her daughter said.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Duffy is survived by sons Michael and Dennis, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Her husband, Joseph “Abe” Duffy, preceded her in death.