Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

James Duncan Obituary (2022) – Albuquerque, NM

James HC Duncan, Sr.

James Herbert Cavanaugh Duncan, husband, father, well-known banker, philanthropist and US Army World War II veteran, passed away on…in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the age of 96.

He was born on June 13, 1925 in Madison, Wisconsin to Lt. Col. Dorman Lestral Duncan, Sr. and Marie Helen (Cavanaugh) Duncan. One week after he graduated from high school, he enlisted in the US Army in 1943, entered World War II as an infantryman and was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division, 38th Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Fox Company. He fought in Belgium, Germany and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and participated in the liberation of Western Bohemia. He retired with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

He was awarded many medals in the service to his country including a Bronze Star with Valor, a Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, a European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three campaign stars, and Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He felt that the latter honor was the most important award he ever received. His experience in Czechoslovakia had a profound impact on his life, and he returned to the country, particularly the cities of Pilsen and Domažlice, many times. He had a great affection for the Czech people and leaves many friends in the Czech Republic. The Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic has awarded him two medals, and he is an honorary citizen of the city of Domažlice.

In 1942, Jim moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, close to where his father was stationed at Fort Custer in Battle Creek. After returning from World War II, he attended Western Michigan University where he met Colleen Patricia Cloney. They were married on September 14, 1946 in Kalamazoo. Colleen, who passed away on July 5, 2000 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Since Colleen’s death, Jim has looked forward to seeing her again in Heaven, God willing. Colleen and Jim had seven children, all of whom survived him. Colleen was an active volunteer both in Kalamazoo and Santa Fe. She was president of the Kalamazoo Service Club, a Trustee at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo and Chairwoman of the Kalamazoo Art Center’s Commercial Division.

Jim joined the First National Bank & Trust Company of Kalamazoo in March 1950 as the adjustments manager. In 1952, he was instrumental in the creation of one of the United States’ first bank charge account service, which evolved into the current Visa card. He quickly moved up through the management of the bank, becoming the president in 1969. He was named chief executive officer in 1971 and became chairman and president in 1972. In that same year, he turned First National Bank into Michigan’s first multi-bank holding company since the Great Depression. The bank subsequently changed its name to First of America Bank Corporation. At the time of his retirement in 1990, the bank had become one of the largest in the Midwest, with banks in Michigan, Illinois and Indiana.

During his long career, Jim served as the President of the Michigan Bankers Association in 1972-73, and member of the board of directors for the American Bankers Association from 1977-79. He served as a Director of the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1979-85.

After his retirement, Jim and Colleen moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where they had purchased a home in 1980. He became involved in archeology and often traveled to work in northern and central New Mexico, as well as the country of Peru. Colleen became a scholar of Native American culture and a volunteer for the Museums of New Mexico Foundation, and in particular, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture where the museum shop now bears her name.

Jim was very involved in charitable organizations throughout his life, and served as president of the Constance Brown Society, president of the Kiwanis Club of Kalamazoo, president and campaign chairman of The United Way of Southwest Michigan, president of the American Red Cross of Southwest Michigan , trustee of the WE Upjohn Foundation, president and trustee of the Western Michigan University Foundation, board of trustee member of Kalamazoo College and chairman of the President’s Council at Nazareth College. In New Mexico, he was board chair of the Santa Fe Community Foundation and a director of the New Mexico Museum of Natural History. He was also active with the Museums of New Mexico Foundation’s Laboratory of Anthropology at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture. Additionally, he was active with the School of Advanced Research.

Jim was awarded Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Western Michigan University and Nazareth College.

Jim is survived by a brother, Lt. Col. Dorman Lestral Duncan, Jr. (Billie Chesley), Dunedin, FL, and a sister, Virginia Ann (Duncan) Mills (Thomas Mills), Satellite Beach, FL. A sister, Sydney Marie, is deceased.

He is survived by seven children: James HC Duncan, Jr., Holland, MI; John Patrick Cavanaugh Duncan (Anita Sarafa), Glencoe, IL; Gary Thomas Cavanaugh Duncan, Indianapolis, IN; Phillip Kent Cavanaugh Duncan (Sandi Gardner), Truth or Consequences, NM; Katherine Mary Cavanaugh Duncan (Jim Shiley), Achnacloich, Isle of Skye, Scotland; Mark Joseph Cavanaugh Duncan (Susan Fish), Portage, MI; and Thomas Michael Cavanaugh Duncan (Leslie DeVera), Parker, CO. Fifteen grandchildren, Erica Hunt, Rebecca Edds, Sarah Camacho, James Duncan, Hayden Williams, Finn Williams, Emily Duncan, Kristen Duncan, Nathanial Duncan, Olivia Duncan, CJ Smaniotto, Aine Duncan, Mallory Duncan and Natalie Duncan survive him, as do nine great grandchildren: Brendan and Kelcey Hunt, Alison and Parker Edds, Gabriel and Clara Camacho, and Luke, Lily and Treyton Reed.

He is also survived by his special friend Claire Kropschot.

Private burial services to be held at the Santa Fe National Cemetery at a later date.

Memorial donations may be made to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, the Max and Tucker Fund at the Santa Fe Community Foundation, the Western Michigan University Foundation, Del Corazon Hospice, or the charity of your choice.

Published by Albuquerque Journal from Apr. 3 to Apr. 4, 2022.

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