Peter Michael Duffy, a longtime resident of Sonoma, died suddenly Jan. 12, 2014, at Stanford Hospital. He was surrounded by family and friends. He was 89.
His mother, Alma, an actress, died in his birth at Homeopathic Hospital in Boston, Mass., on May 3, 1924. His father, John H. Duffy Jr., a businessman, succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis by the time Peter was 12, leaving the direction of his care in the hands of his sturdy grandfather, who came over from Ireland as a boy during the Irish potato famine to succeed in the paper business in Southern California. Between the holiday breaks with his grandfather, John Duffy Sr., and his stepmother, Anne, his early upbringing was in the hands of the nuns who ran the private Catholic boarding schools, along later with some military-type academies.
Peter learned early on how to submit to the program to survive, and later cultivated diplomatic skills for his own advancement and sanity. He attended Loyola, Fairfax and Beverly Hills high schools in Los Angeles, and started his senior year at UCLA.
He enjoyed sports as a youth and excelled in baseball as a pitcher – first string at UCLA and his Army unit – and even generated interest from a professional league. His athletic abilities stuck with him throughout his life. He was an avid tennis player in his mid-life with his close friends. This gradually wound down and changed into a love of the golf thing, as he and his friends aged and tennis became too harsh a sport. He thrilled at being able at times to score less than his age in his 70s and 80s. He made a hole-in-one on the second hole at the Los Arroyos course in Sonoma one summer day, with his oldest son as a witness. And days before his death, he savored driving a well-placed ball farther than his 23-year-old grandson, with whom he was enjoying a round of nine holes.
At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Peter was a freshman at UCLA. In the fall of 1942, he decided to leave school and enlist in the Signal Corps of the U.S. Army. After completing some tests, Peter was asked to become a cryptanalyst technician with Detachment G of the 849th Signal Intelligence Service.
His group was assigned the task of trying to break the German weather code. They broke the secret code system, thus enabling the Allies to more accurately and effectively bomb their assigned targets.
After the war, Peter completed his studies at UCLA and went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of Vermont, where he was introduced to and married the dynamic, intelligent, and “old school classy” Ann Schremly, the love of his life. They then moved to the southwest San Francisco Bay area, where Peter completed a juris doctor law degree at Stanford University.
Peter and Ann, with a newborn child, then moved to Sonoma, because he perceived that the people there at that time were forthright and genuine. He had come from, and knew the duplicity of, Hollywood (as a youth, he was invited to and attended a birthday party of the child actress Shirley Temple).
Here in Sonoma, he began working for attorney Newton Dal Poggetto for a few years, then opened his own law practice in the late 1950s. In the 1970s, he partnered with Ron Preston to form Duffy & Preston, Attorneys at Law. During his law practice years, he was active in local community politics, serving on the city council of Sonoma, the board of trustees of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, and as president of Sonoma Valley Rotary. He sang in the Sonoma Valley Chorale, and later in his life, he taught an English class for the Spanish-speaking community. He had earned a teaching degree in English before he attended law school, and could communicate also in Italian, French and Spanish.
As he progressed through his law practice, he decided not to pursue the judgeship that he earlier desired and retired as an attorney in 1989 to move on and do other things in his private life.
Peter respected and cared about many people, especially his wife, Ann, his three children, and his two grandchildren. Realizing some of his own and his family members’ shortcomings, he was humbled by reality. Yet he never gave up on himself or his family, and continued to strive on. He did return to his religious roots as a Roman Catholic, and attended Mass at St. Leo’s Catholic Church. Those who knew him will miss his warmth, intellect, graciousness and sense of humor. Some say he was a true gentleman.
Peter was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Ann Duffy; and son, Daniel P. Duffy. Survivors include his sons, John A. Duffy and Theodore M. Duffy, of Sonoma; and his grandsons, Peter G.C. Duffy, of Santa Rosa and Shea V. Duffy, of Sonoma.
Currently, no memorial services are planned.