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When he passed away in September 2014, Edgar Anthony Duffy was just shy of his 102nd birthday. He led a long and fruitful life and left behind a tremendous legacy of faith and generosity that will bear fruit for many generations to come.
The Richmond native and former city clerk bequeathed over $4.5 million in gifts to Catholic organizations within the Diocese of Richmond. His gifts to St. Benedict parish in Richmond and the Diocese of Richmond are estimated to be between $1.5 and $1.7 million each. Mr. Duffy also bequeathed part of his estate to Mary Mother of God Abbey, Benedictine College Preparatory, St. Benedict School, All Saints Catholic School, St. Patrick Catholic Church, and the Little Sisters of the Poor.
As Barbara McNeace, his caregiver, and Kathleen Judy, his close relative, recall, Mr. Duffy was deeply committed to the faith. They remember him as an exceptionally kind and generous man who prayed before meals, thanked God every night, attended Mass every week, and honored his deceased family by visiting their graves at Mt. Calvary cemetery often. As an adult, he was a devoted parishioner of St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond.
Deacon Paul Mahefky, who serves St. Benedict Parish and took Holy Communion to Mr. Duffy for the last four years of his life, remarked that Mr. Duffy would always say an Act of Contrition before I gave him Communion. That says everything about him. He was so humble.
Due to family financial difficulties during the Depression, Mr. Duffy lived with his grandmother as a child and grew up in the Fulton neighborhood attending St. Patrick parish. He graduated from Benedictine College Preparatory in 1930 and, as a cadet, loved the priests and loved playing basketball.
In 1943, he joined the Office of the City Clerk as assistant clerk and was eventually promoted to city clerk, serving the city of Richmond over 30 years. As Pat Gilman, a close friend and fellow parishioner at St. Benedict, recalls, Mr. Duffy joined an investment club many years ago and purchased shares in Brown-Forman Corporation, the large spirits company known for Jack Daniels and Woodford Reserve. Those shares grew and grew over time and turned into a small fortune by the end of Mr. Duffy’s life.
That fortune will benefit many Catholics and those they serve throughout the Diocese of Richmond and beyond, especially by supporting Catholic education, St. Benedict parish, and the ministries of the Diocese.
Mr. Duffy’s $450,000 gift to St. Benedict School, the parish’s pre-K-8 school boasting a classical curriculum in the heart of the Museum District, will be used to establish a scholarship endowment in honor of his parents, John and Anne Duffy. Half of his $300,000 gift to All Saints Catholic School was also designated as a scholarship fund, and his generosity to Benedictine College Preparatory will help to ensure that young men continue to benefit from the same formation Mr. Duffy received.
Mr. Duffy’s sense of gratitude for his Catholic education and his care for the welfare of children make his designation for Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Richmond a great tribute. To honor his request, The Edgar A. Duffy Scholarship Fund will be established, funded by his residuary bequest worth over $1.7 million. The Fund will be managed in the McMahon-Parater Foundation of the Diocese of Richmond.
His generosity will also tremendously strengthen St. Benedict Catholic Church. Located on N. Sheppard Street directly across from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the parish entered a partnership in 2011 with the Diocese of Richmond. They purchased the parking lot adjacent to the parish and the priory formerly used by the Benedictines serving Benedictine College Preparatory. The parish will be opening the priory in October 2015.
In addition to making this major investment, St. Benedict parish has significant additional capital needs including repairing the church roof, heating and air system, stained glass windows and renovations needed at the school.
In a letter addressed to parishioners on August 29, Father Anthony Marques, the pastor, remarks that the needs total $3.2 million and that Mr. Duffy’s gift will go a long way toward meeting the parish’s capital needs. His gift will anchor a parish-wide campaign to help meet these immediate needs and build a Preservation Fund for future needs.
The parish is seeking additional funds to meet other needs through the Living Our Mission campaign, the diocese’s first-ever comprehensive capital campaign to fund Catholic education, priest retirement, seminarian education, and other critical needs of the diocese and its parishes.
The historic campaign has ushered new life and hope into many parishes not only by addressing diocesan-level needs, but also by the parish-sharing formula at the heart of the campaign. The formula brings a portion of the funds raised back to the local parishes, enabling them to complete long-awaited building projects and fresh ministry initiatives.
Through their participation in the campaign, thousands of Catholics throughout the diocese have joined together and made sacrifices to build the future of the Church. So far, donors have pledged over $55 million toward the $65 million goal. The campaign has inspired many Catholics to make bequests, leaving a final legacy of faith, and Mr. Duffy’s gift is the largest gift so far received.
As Barbara McNeace said, His purpose in life was to give back. By saving and not having many expenses, he was able to do that. He lived a quiet, reserved life of great faith, and he is a shining example of generosity and discipleship for all. Many people throughout the Diocese of Richmond will be very grateful for a long time to come.
The Catholic Virginian, 28 September 2015, Volume 90 Number 24