Jerry Dunne, 85, of Mission Viejo, California, passed away on January 16, 2024.
Jerry was born on December 15, 1938 to George and Eleanor Dunne in the city of Windsor, Connecticut. After graduating from Saint Anthony’s High School in Long Beach California in 1956, Jerry went on to college.
He served his community as a Fireman in Long Beach, California as well as his country in the Air Force Reserves. He became interested in business, and alongside his brother-in-law Joseph Nelson, ventured into the restaurant industry. And on a beautiful ranch in Friday Harbor Washington, he found unexpected joy in raising alpacas with his sister Diane and brother-in-law Joseph.
After retiring, he moved back to California and spent his last years near his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Jerry is survived by his sister Diane Nelson, his daughters Lorrie Gagné and Felisha Dunne, son-in-law John Gagné, his grandchildren Alexandra Gagné, Samantha Gagné Hillen, Benjamin Kieswetter and Annabelle Kieswetter, his great grandchildren Jonni Glover, Penelope Hillen and Jack Hillen.
In Loving Memory
1938 – 2024
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those whose spirit is crushed. Many are the troubles of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19-20
Hi, everyone. My name is Scott Miller. On behalf of my cousins Lorrie, Felisha, John, and the entire Dunne Family, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your presence here today. While we knew this day would eventually come, it doesn’t make it any easier to stand up here and talk about Jerry, as if he’s no longer with us. I don’t think it’ll ever get easier, but perhaps that’s the mark of a life well-lived… and a life well-loved.
This eulogy is written from the perspective of my sweet cousin, Lorrie. These are her words about her father, and it is my honor and privilege to read this on her behalf today.
My father, Jerry Dunne, was a man among men. If you had the honor of knowing him personally, he made you feel that special. He had a way about him that reflected his Maker in all he did…from his incredible work ethic, to his love for political discussion, to the positive impact he had in his community throughout the decades. My father was respected by everyone he met, admired and appreciated by countless, and he was cherished, and incredibly loved, by those of us who were blessed to call him Dad, Grandpa, and Papa J. My family and I have been touched by the memories and stories shared over these past several days, by those whose lives he touched in ways we never knew. We’re touched, but we aren’t surprised. Dad was just the type of person who, once you met him, stayed in your heart in one way or another.
My father was born on December 15th, 1938, to his loving parents, George and Eleanor, in Windsor, Connecticut. Alongside his big sister, our precious Aunt Diane, he grew up knowing what it meant to look out for and to care for one’s family. He learned the value of a hard day’s work, and as a young man, set out to make his own way in the world. Dad was as intelligent as he was strong, and he maintained many different professions throughout his life and career. In the early days, he served his community as a fireman in Long Beach, as well as his country in the Air Force Reserves. He became interested in business, and alongside his brother-in-law, our Uncle Joe, ventured into the restaurant industry. And on a beautiful ranch in Friday Harbor, Washington, he found unexpected joy in raising alpacas with Diane and Joe.
In 1959, he married our mother, Joan Dunne. Although their union lasted 11 years, throughout his life, Dad was incredibly thankful for the years that brought him his children, who were his pride and his joy. Felisha and I could feel our dad’s love from a thousand miles away. His heart was as big as the Friday Harbor sky, and it only grew bigger as his family grew. His grandchildren, Alex, Samantha, Benjamin, and Annabelle, introduced him to a new kind of love that enraptured his heart. The arrival of his great-grandchildren, Jonni Girl, Penelope, and Jack, served to deepen that love. And I couldn’t go further talking about the love Dad had for his family…without mentioning my husband, John.
When John came into our family, he became like the son Dad never had. They laughed together, but also gave each other the occasional hard time. John had a way of encouraging Dad to do things that perhaps Dad thought he couldn’t do anymore due to his physical limitations. John would help him break those barriers, over and over, and through the years, an unbreakable bond was formed. Dad trusted John completely, and knew that he always had his best interests at heart. From the bottom of my heart, to my beloved husband, thank you for your unwavering love and support for not only our dad, but also for me through the joys and trials of these past couple of years.
When I think over the course of my father’s life, one word comes to mind: fulfilled. Dad’s life was filled to the brim with the people and the things he loved most. Many of you here today can easily recall Dad’s love of cars. His cars were always kept in immaculate condition, particularly his prized 1950s era Chevy. And he had this uncanny ability to make ugly things beautiful again. Working with his hands, he restored old furniture to good as new. He enjoyed painting and did a lot of handyman work. He could spend hours in his garden, in which he grew the most beautiful flowers. He loved experimenting with different varieties of seeds, and watching the fruits of his labor grow and flourish. He was an avid Republican, and enjoyed talking politics and the news of the day. He enjoyed keeping up with the stock market, real estate and business news, as well as the latest in technology.
Famous poet L.M. Montgomery once wrote, “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” I couldn’t agree more. I have so many precious memories of my dad, from the time I was a little girl. I remember him playing the radio, and enjoying the love songs more than anything else. I remember him looking forward to a day on the green with Uncle Joe, and the two of them interacting with clients during the alpaca business years. I remember how much Dad loved going to restaurants, and enjoying a good dinner and a glass of wine with his family and friends. I remember how much he loved being the “Silver Fox,” and getting with the guys to talk golf, guns, and politics. I remember my dad enjoying company, but also valuing his privacy, and his much-needed alone time. And I remember how he held his sister Diane in the highest regard. His faith in God and the Church was strengthened by Aunt Diane’s unshakable faith, and her support for him in everything he did. She was his lifelong confidante, his moral compass, and he admired her life and her faith all his days.
Perhaps more than anything, I’ll remember my father for his love of God. For his entire life, my father was a dedicated Catholic, and he often referred to the Good Lord. When he could no longer attend Mass in person, he watched it on TV. He received communion each week from St. Kilian’s Eucharistic minister, and he prayed the Rosary often. He lived by the Golden Rule and inspired his children to do the same. And he kept close to his heart the Serenity Prayer, which I will recite for us all now:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Following his accident in 2022, and the subsequent loss of his hearing, my dad’s life came to a halt. But with help from an excellent team of doctors, family, and friends, he made a slow but successful recovery. He found that he was able to enjoy his backyard again. He was able to plant seeds again, and watch his garden come to life once more. Dad was eating well, and enjoyed watching golf, football, and baseball on TV. He was visited by family regularly, and loved interacting with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was so proud of his kids, of his daughter Felisha’s music career, and of all the grandkids, and he always wanted to know what everyone was up to. Needless to say, he thoroughly enjoyed his Aura Photo Album, as well as Instagram, where he could keep up with everyone, and watch everyone grow and thrive. I’m so grateful to say that 2023 was a wonderful year for my dad, and that his last Christmas was memorable for us all.
My father, Jerry Dunne, was 85 years old when he passed from this life and into the loving arms of the Holy Family. Through these past several days, I have had some time to think about him, the life he lived, and the legacy he leaves behind. I have come to the conclusion that his life was a life well lived, full of faith, hope, and love, and never-ending confidence in a brighter tomorrow for us all.
My family and I have many people to thank for the incredible care our father received over the past couple of years. We want to extend a special thank-you to Grace Radford and her team, Eric, John, Joel, and Chris, for their wonderful care and concern for Dad. They treated him like family, and he thrived under their care in ways we could have only prayed for. Thank you to all our wonderful friends and extended family, for being there during the most challenging moments, as well as the most joyful ones. And another heartfelt thank you to my husband, John, for everything.
I want to conclude now with the image of what is perhaps the happiest memory I have with my dad. Picture this…we’re at Aunt Diane’s cabin in Friday Harbor. Evening has arrived, and with it, the dusk; the sun is slowly setting across the horizon, and God proceeds to paint a peaceful picture across the sky and water. It’s dinner time, and we all sit down with Dad on the deck to eat, and to watch the whales swim by. It’s a magical moment. The ocean air is refreshing, the food is amazing, and the company is even better. Everyone is well, everyone is happy. A bit like how I imagine it is in Heaven right about now.
Dad, thank you for everything you did for Felisha, John and I, and for all the lessons and love you gave us over the years. Thank you for creating new memories with the grandkids to cherish, and thank you for showing us what it means to live a life of faith, even until the end. We love you, we miss you, and we look forward to the day we see your smiling face, and hear the steady guidance in your voice, once again. Until then.