OBITUARY

William James Duncan

January 25, 1925March 6, 2019
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Our beloved father, William J. Duncan, 94, passed away peacefully Wednesday, March 6th at Danbury Hospital from complications of pneumonia. At the time of his passing, he was surrounded by his devoted children.

He was predeceased in 2017, by his wife, Gabrielle A. Duncan, the woman he had loved for over 70 years.

Bill was born in January, 1925, to parents William J. Duncan, Sr and Margarite Estelle Duncan (Buckridge). He spent most of his early years in Brooklyn and while he had very fond memories of his life in NY, he suffered some early tragic losses.

In 1927, when he was only two, his father, William Duncan, Sr. passed away. His maternal grandfather Thomas Jefferson Buckridge stepped in to fill the paternal void. Unfortunately, Thomas also passed away two years later in 1929.

At that point in his young life, his mother Estelle and older sisters, Thelma and Dorothy became the guiding force in his life. He had a strong devotion to his mother, who, though very poor, managed to raise three children as a widow through the depression.

Bill attended NYC schools including Franklin K. Lane High School in Brooklyn, where he “lettered” and excelled at swimming.

Swimming continued to be a passion throughout his life and one that he would pass on to his children. Whether he was at Montauk Point, Cape Cod, Candlewood Lake, the beaches of Hawaii, the Outer Banks, the backyard pool in Plainview or New Milford, or most recently, the beach at Ocean City, MD., Bill thrived when he was at the beach or swimming.

When he returned from the war, Bill took advantage of the GI bill and studied Electrical Engineering at Baltimore Poly Tech and Columbia University.

His work history includes many wonderful stories about the twenty years he worked for the NY Telephone Company as a telephone installer initially and subsequently as a salesman.

In 1969 he moved his family from NY to Danbury, CT so he could take a job with the American Can Company. He remained with American Can for about 12 years and then moved on to Chesebrough Ponds, Inc. He ultimately wound up as a Communications Engineer at PerkinElmer Inc. It was from this later corporation, that he eventually retired in the late 1980’s.

Bill had many interests during his life and he credited the Boy Scouts for his early love of photography, sport, adventure and hard work. He also had an incredible gift which allowed him to build or fix just about anything he set his mind to. Whether it was a garage, a deck, an addition to the house or a new bathroom, he seemed to be able to figure it out and do it all.

His work ethic and adventurous spirit took him on many travels through his life and especially once he retired. He, Gabrielle and sometimes his children and numerous pets traveled to Europe, Latin America and many places throughout the US including Alaska and Hawaii.

Although his family, his interests and his work filled an important part of his life, it would be remiss not to mention one of his most influential and pivotal life experiences.

During his younger years, Bill traveled to Bear Mountain to visit relatives. While there, he learned how to ski and it became a new passion. During one of his many ski trips there, he was befriended and influenced by world famous ski jumper and Norwegian immigrant, Torger Tokle. He and Torger were both from Brooklyn.

Bill was drafted by the army out of high school and volunteered for the elite 10th Mountain Division following in the footsteps of his older, extremely personable comrade and mentor, Tokle.

While training in the Colorado Rockies at Camp Hale or fighting in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain of WWII, Bill and his comrades from the 10th, including Tokle, climbed treacherous peaks, skied on virgin slopes using wooden skis with rope bindings all while carrying 90 lb. packs and weathering temperatures of 40 below.

On Feb. 18, 1945, the 10th Division took Riva Ridge in Italy to prevent the Germans from being able to survey U.S. positions below. In a treacherous nighttime operation. Bill and his comrades climbed the steep snow and ice covered mountain at night.

The Germans had not bothered with guard patrols, because the conditions were so difficult that they did not believe any American unit could climb the ridge, day or night.

But the Germans were wrong and the soldiers of the 10th climbed, silently, to the top and were able to secure Riva Ridge with minimal casualties.

The Army, decided that if the 10th could do it once they could do it again. The next day they assaulted Mount Belvedere. They were victorious but paid a huge price, hundreds died and many more were wounded.

In 141 days of combat, the 10th saw 992 men killed and 4,100 wounded in some of the war’s toughest combat. During those days, Bill lost many friends, including Tokle. Bill was one of the wounded and wound up in an army hospital for four months. He was eventually honorably discharged from the army in 1946.

As a result of his war time experiences, he was an active participant in many veterans organizations including the 10th Mountain Division, American Legion and the VFW. He held official roles in the organizations and including the Danbury Military Museum where he was a museum Director and responsible for the creation of the Museum’s 10th Mountain Exhibit.

He was also instrumental in the creation of the Shea Magrath Memorial in Norwalk, which was dedicated in part to the memory of John Magrath, the 10th’s only Congressional Medal of Honor winner from WWII. For many years Bill felt it was his duty to honor Magrath’s memory and sacrifice through organization of services conducted at Magrath’s graveside and memorial.

Bill is survived and will be lovingly remembered by his daughter, Lynn M. of North Carolina, his daughter Donna M. of Brookfield, CT, his daughter Mary Rose of Virginia and his son William and daughter-in-law Corrie of New Milford. He is also blessed to be survived by his only granddaughter, Alexa, also of New Milford. Bill is also survived by his only niece, Carol Letus-Dumin of California.

We would like to thank Dr. Kanakis, Dr. Jimenez, Dr. Sethi, Resident Doctors DiGarda and Samuels for keeping us constantly updated on dad’s progress and for doing their best on our father’s behalf while he was in the Danbury Hospital ICU. We would also especially like to thank all the wonderful Nurses, Nursing Assistants and Respiratory Therapists that did their best to fight for our father and to make his final three weeks as comfortable as possible.

Visitation will be at the Green Funeral Home at 57 Main Street, Danbury, Connecticut 06810 on Wednesday, March 13 from 4 pm to 7 pm.

Burial will be at the State Veterans Cemetery, 317 Bow Lane, Middletown, CT 06457 on Thursday, March 14th at 10 am.

Donations may be made in Bill’s memory to the 10th Mountain Division Foundation or a Veteran’s organization of your choice.

  • FAMILY

  • William James Duncan was predeceased by his wife, Gabrielle A. Duncan and his parents William J. Duncan, Sr and Margarite Estelle Duncan (Buckridge).

    Bill is survived and will be lovingly remembered by his daughter, Lynn M. of North Carolina, his daughter Donna M. of Brookfield, CT, his daughter Mary Rose of Virginia and his son William and daughter-in-law Corrie of New Milford. He is also blessed to be survived by his only granddaughter, Alexa, also of New Milford. Bill is also survived by his only niece, Carol Letus-Dumin of California.
  • DONATIONS

  • 10th Mountain Division Foundation
  • Any Veteran's Organization

Services

  • Visitation Wednesday, March 13, 2019
  • Graveside Service Thursday, March 14, 2019
REMEMBERING

William James Duncan

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Bob Linscott

March 20, 2019

Throughout his life he set one goal
To reach on high a mountain’s soul.
His climbing days now over, past,
He scaled the peak which Death had cast.
On top the summit all aglow
He stands in God’s great light, and so
He could no lesser life have known
Than of the one he lived full blown.
The mountain of the Great Beyond
Still beckons with an ice-axe wand
And mountain men no matter where
Must meet the challenge that is there.
He was a member of our clan,
A 10th Division Mountain Man.
-- Thurl D. Brown, "the Gremlin", 87-M, 10th Mountain Division
On behalf of a grateful Nation and Bill's beloved New England Chapter, National Association of the 10th Mountain Division, I extend my heartfelt sympathies and sincere condolences to Bill's family.

Lois Barber

March 13, 2019

Model of Riva Ridge from The Military Museum of Southern New England's 10th Mountain exhibit

Lois Barber

March 9, 2019

William Duncan received:
Bronze Star for Valor
Three Theaters: Europe, Pacific, Homeland
Purple Heart
Award for Battle of the Riva Ridge
American Campaign Medal
European, African, Middle Eastern Service Medal
Good Conduct Medal
WWII Victory Medal
Distinguished Service Award for the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division

Lois Barber

March 9, 2019

William Duncan’s World War II experience with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division is the stuff that books are written about, and movies are made of. When I listened to the stories Bill tells about his wartime experience, I was absolutely mesmerized. The one that stands out the most to me, is the taking of the German bunker on top of Riva Ridge, Italy. From this high ridge, the Germans who occupied it could see for miles and report back what the Allies were doing. The Allies needed to take this mountaintop, no matter what the price. The bunker sat on the summit of a 2,000-foot sheer, steep mountain. The Germans didn’t bother posting any sentries before they went to bed, because no one in their right mind would rock-climb up the side of a snow-covered steep cliff at night. What the Germans didn’t count on was the United States Army’s 10th Mountain Division. It took seven-and-a-half hours for the Americans to climb up the side of the ridge, every inch covered with snow and ice. They climbed up in the dead of night, the climbing experts first, hammering steel pistons into the crevices of the rock wall. They then attached snap links and ropes onto which other members of their team could use to pull themselves up the vertical ridge.
Not only did the 10th Mountain ascend the rugged terrain in pitch-black snowy conditions, they were able to enter the German bunkhouse so silently, they woke the Germans up with a “Good Morning” song. The Germans were so surprised, that the bunkhouse was taken without a single American causality.
I can think of no one else who is more deserving to be recognized and remembered with honor than my friend and personal hero William Duncan the third, 10th Mountain Division. In today’s androgynous world, my ending sentence might be politically incorrect to say, but I'm saying it anyway. William Duncan’s photo should be next to the word “Man” in the dictionary.

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

William J. Duncan was born January 25, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

His mother Margarite Estelle (Stella) Duncan (Buckridge)

FROM THE FAMILY

Bill with his mother, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

Bill with his mother, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

His father, William James Duncan, Sr.
Died 1927

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

William J. Duncan was born January 25, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

His mother Margarite Estelle (Stella) Duncan (Buckridge)

FROM THE FAMILY

Bill with his mother, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

Bill with his mother, 1925

FROM THE FAMILY

His father, William James Duncan, Sr.
Died 1927

FROM THE FAMILY

Thomas Jefferson Buckridge (maternal grandfather). Stepped in to help raise his grandson, Bill, when his son-in-law died in 1927.

FROM THE FAMILY

Mother Stella Duncan and older sisters Thelma and Dorothy

FROM THE FAMILY

Not too happy about being held by Dotty (sister) Thelma (sister standing on right) 1926

FROM THE FAMILY

In the backyard at Cooper St. in Brooklyn, NY 1926