Colonel James H. Duncan of Alameda passed away March 8, 2018. He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Mary N. Duncan. He is survived by his five children (Madeline Duncan of Arvada, CO; Daniel Duncan of Livermore, CA; Matthew Duncan of Alameda, CA; Jeffrey Duncan of Orinda, CA; James H. Duncan Jr. of Las Vegas, NV), three daughters-in-law (Anna Duncan, Seana Duncan, Joy Soulier), and six grandchildren (Gabriel Duncan, Amelia Duncan, James H. Duncan III, Matthew Duncan, Elizabeth Duncan, Julia Duncan). He is also survived by his sister Rosemary Duncan of Chicago, IL and his brother John Duncan of Highland, IL.
Jim was born on July 10, 1924, in Germantown, Illinois, the third of eight children born to Joseph Duncan of Ohio and Veronica Welling of Illinois. He was raised in Germantown during the Depression, and enjoyed being part of his large family, consisting of sisters Ruth and Rosemary, and brothers Jerome, Richard, Hubert, John and Eugene. After high school graduation, Jim worked as a trainman on the Southern Railway, beginning a lifelong love affair with trains.
In December 1943, Jim enlisted in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for submarine service. After training at New London, Connecticut, he was deployed to Saipan in the Pacific, where he joined the crew of the submarine USS Lionfish. The boat patrolled the western Pacific off the coast of Japan, and joined the vast U.S. Navy Armada headed towards Iwo Jima in the closing months of the war. While 20 miles off the coast of Japan, the Lionfish received word of the atomic bombing and the war’s end. Jim remained an active supporter of the “Silent Service” throughout his life, and participated in several submarine reunions over the years.
After being discharged from the Navy, Jim moved back to Illinois and began college on the G.I. Bill, working part-time to help pay for his education. He graduated from St. Louis University in June 1951 with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering and was directly commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force.
Early in 1952, stationed at Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, Jim met Mary J. Nusbaum on a blind date. A whirlwind romance followed, and they were married on December 6, 1952 in Enid. They immediately moved to Turner Air Force Base in Albany, Georgia, where he had been transferred prior to their wedding. Jim and Mary’s first 2 children (Madeline and Daniel) were born in Albany.
At Turner AFB, Jim was assigned to the 508th Fighter Wing, which was then transferred overseas to serve in the Korean War. From Misawa AFB in northern Japan, Jim and his fellow pilots flew missions to intercept enemy planes trying to enter Korean airspace from islands occupied by Soviet MIG fighters. After hundreds of flights and intercepts, the wing was sent back to Turner AFB after the war.
In June 1955, Jim was released from active duty in the Air Force, and he and Mary (and their children Madeline and Daniel) moved to Alameda, California, where he would spend the remainder of his life. (Sons Matthew, Jeffrey and James Jr. were all born in Alameda.) He and Mary raised their five children in Alameda and were very proud of their accomplishments.
Jim proudly served in the U.S. Air Force Reserve for the next 29 years, and retired from the Air Force Reserve as a full colonel in July 1984.
Jim began working for the Standard Register Paper Company in Oakland in 1955, where he worked for 13 years. In 1968, he joined Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, where he would work as an engineer and manager for the rest of his career. He was proud to have worked with Dr. Sidney Garfield, the co-founder of Kaiser Permanente. He retired from Kaiser in 1990.
Jim spent considerable time volunteering for the Boy Scouts of America and was proud that all four sons were part of Troop 1015 in Alameda. In recognition of his contribution to the BSA, Jim was awarded the prestigious Silver Beaver Award in 1984. After retirement, Jim also served his community through the East Bay Regional Park District, where he served two terms on the Board of Directors, from 1984 - 1992. He loved walking in the East Bay hills. Jim served as an usher at St. Philip Neri church in Alameda for many years as well, usually handling the 10:30 AM mass.
One of Jim’s abiding passions was wine. When he and his family moved to California in 1955, he began collecting wine from both California and Europe. (He always had Châteauneuf-du-Pape in his cellar.) Jim loved serving fine wine to family and friends, as well as bringing nice bottles to restaurants. He was delighted that his children and grandchildren all developed a taste for good wine, and it was an important part of every Duncan dinner.
Jim and Mary loved to travel and did so extensively, in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. Growing up in Enid, Mary was very close to her first cousins, Keith Atchinson and Donald Atchinson. In later years, Jim and Mary were able to make several overseas trips with Don and his wife Virginia. He also enjoyed sharing wine with Keith’s son, Court, and his wife, Vivian.
No services are planned. In lieu of flowers, charitable donations may be made to the Humane Society of Alameda or the Boy Scouts of America.