Robert J. (Bob) Dunfey, Sr.’s pride and joy was the house he had built in Ballyferriter, Ireland, with the most amazing view of ocean and cliffs. His purpose was to have new generations of family reconnect with Irish relatives. His school master and archeologist cousin, Denis O’Connor, helped Bob select the perfect Irish name: Feorann: “Edge of the sea, a verdant bank on a mountainside.” Over 35 years, Mr. Dunfey expanded that word’s meaning to include “a bit of heaven to be shared with all!”
He generously opened his Irish home to family, countless friends –even friends of friends. He introduced US Senators George Mitchell, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, and Chris Dodd to the expansive beauty and warm hospitality of the Dingle Peninsula, believing as every Kerryman does, that there are only two kingdoms: The Kingdom of God and The Kingdom of Kerry; “One is of this world and one is out of this world!”
Mr. Dunfey of Portsmouth, NH, father of five and a highly successful man of the world of business with special ties to Ireland, died peacefully on Tues., Aug. 23, after a long and valiant struggle against Parkinson’s Disease. He was 88.
The seventh child in a family of 12, he knew from the beginning that his life would be that of bridge builder, connector, supporter of worthy causes. His closest friend and partner, his brother Jack, credits Mr. Dunfey’s energy and hard work as the distinct factor that grew the family business from one small outfit to fried clam stands at Hampton Beach then on to restaurants, motels, and hotels throughout New England, an evolution which led to the purchase of Boston’s famous Parker House in 1968 and later became Omni Hotels International.
Mr. Dunfey’s concern for Ireland’s welfare was central to his extraordinarily busy life. He worked tirelessly to support initiatives in Northern Ireland and cultural preservation projects in the South of Ireland. For his extraordinary efforts over 40 years on the Isle of Ireland, he was honored with several major awards by all the parties to the Peace Process as a trusted, behind-the-scenes partner for all who were interested in moving beyond “The Troubles.”
He served as an advisor for the White House Conference for Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland. He participated with Sen. George Mitchell, President Clinton’s Special Envoy for Economic Initiatives for Northern Ireland, on the senator’s first tour of Belfast, Derry, and the border towns.
Mr. Dunfey’s granddaughter summed up the thoughts of his family, friend, and admirers on the occasion of his death:
“Our Papa leaves an amazing legacy as a humanitarian and activist. He touched so many lives and made such a memorable impact in this world. He will be immensely missed by his loving family and wide circle of friends.”
A celebration of Mr. Dunfey’s life will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 100 Chapel Street, Portsmouth, NH at 11 A.M. on Sat., Sept. 10, 2016.
– BIR Staff