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Alec Duncan

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Teacher, photographer, storyteller, loving husband and father, and longtime resident of Moss Beach and San Francisco, Alec Duncan passed away peacefully early in the morning of Oct. 3, 2023, with his son Will at his bedside, after a sudden illness.

Alec was born in Yellow Springs, Ohio, to William and Martha Duncan. Bill and Marty met as students at Antioch College; they married, raised a family, and spent the rest of their lives there. All four children — Judy, Bill Jr, Dan and Alec — attended grade school there, and graduated from Yellow Springs High Schools. The Duncan family was an integral part of the Yellow Springs and Antioch community for decades. Bill Duncan Park in Yellow Springs is named after Alec’s father.

Alec spent his junior year of high school in Spain, where he “drank wine, rode around Spain, Portugal and France on a motor scooter, and became fluent in Spanish,” according to classmate and lifelong friend David Northway. He graduated from Yellow Springs High School with the Class of 1967.

He enrolled right away at Antioch, completing the standard five-year program alternating quarter of study on campus with “co-op” jobs all over the country. His inquisitive nature led him to a wide range of academic fields: Mesopotamian culture, Zen Buddhism, political theory from Plato to Rousseau and motorcycle mechanics all grace his transcript, but the subjects of philosophy, art and photography became his important passions. Professor George Geiger, philosophy, was a particular mentor. In 1969, one of his co-op jobs fell through, but he found himself already in Florida, so he talked his way into a job as photographer at the local newspaper in Key West, thus beginning his career as a photographer. He received his BA, in philosophy and art, in 1972.

Alec moved to California in the early 1970s; there he met Cheryl Ann “Buffy” Bunting. They set up house in several locations in the San Francisco Mission District, where they were married in 1979. In 1982, Alec and Buffy bought an empty lot in Moss Beach, California, and built their own house with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean and the Farallon Islands — when the fog lifts! They raised their two sons, William and Andrew there, and it is the family home to this day.

Alec had a long career as a professional photographer in the SF Bay Area. His gregarious nature brought him a wide variety of clients. A voluble raconteur, he could talk his way into all kinds of places. For example, he managed to get permission to visit the top of the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge for a photo shoot. A few years later, he also persuaded a maintenance supervisor of the SF-Oakland Bay Bridge to accompany him up one of the suspension cables supporting the western span between SF and Treasure Island.

In his late 50s, Alec started a second career as a middle school teacher at the North Star Academy in Redwood City. He thrived and excelled as a social studies teacher, where his talents of storytelling and his stage presence were a perfect fit to keep a classroom of fifth- and sixth-graders on task. He successfully led numerous field trips with his students to places of historical and cultural interest in San Francisco and Sacramento. Alec also had roles in several theatrical productions at the school. He retired in 2020.

Alec was an enthusiastic sports fan, especially of the SF Giants, often attending Opening Day and Fan Appreciation Day, at both Candlestick and AT&T Parks. For his 70th birthday, son Will arranged a surprise visit to a Golden State Warriors game; the surprise included a seat for a good old friend and former college roommate.

Alec spoke and read Spanish fluently. He and Buffy traveled often, including a long trip to Peru and other South American countries. They made several tours of Europe; and for many years they spent long summer weeks on Oahu, where they shared the modest beach home of a Hawaiian family. Many visits, both short and long, with good friends in Nevada County, California, were also a highlight.

A few quotes from friends:

“Alec was such a character. And always so true to his own character; so brilliant and sardonic. It was always interesting to hang out with him.”

“Never a dull conversation. He made life fun for us whenever he visited. I will never forget laughing hard about the Ballet Folklorico de Omaha and the Lipizzaner Newts.”

Alec is survived by his wife, Buffy; son William “Will” Spencer Duncan; brothers, Billy, of North Carolina, and Dan, of San Francisco; and friends too numerous to list. He was preceded in death by his parents; his sister, Judy; and his son Andrew.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Nov. 3, at noon, at Central Peninsula Church, 1005 Shell Blvd., Foster City, California. Mourners will join the family for lunch afterwards at a nearby restaurant. In lieu of flowers, the family requests considering a donation to the Antioch College Endowment Fund.


6 Responses to “Alec Duncan”

  1. Jack Fei says:

    Alec was my childhood friend and my link to Yellow Springs thru High School and the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, and 55th class reunions. Sadly, there will be no more.

  2. Dan Faust says:

    Grew up with him in Yellow Springs, My first cousin.He was a wonderful and caring person with a great sense of humor. We will miss him, Rest in peace……way too soon.

  3. Dan Faust says:

    Alec was my cousin and I grew up with him in yellow Springs. He was a sweet and wonderful person with a great sense of humor and an incredible wit. rest in peace Alec.

  4. Dan Faust says:

    I’m going to miss him. He was my cousin and grew up together in yellow springs. A very unique sense of humor and very witty. Rest in peace.

  5. Carter Lobo says:

    the goat. cant believe hes gone

  6. Sherlock Sprigot says:

    R.I.P. Mr. Duncan. Now you can eat all the chocolate covered grapes you want in heaven.

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