1906 earthquake survivor dies at 101

Central Point resident Frances Mae Duffy was less than a year old when the devastating earthquake leveled much of San Francisco

Central Point resident Frances Mae Duffy, a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, died on Monday. She was 101.
A graveside service was held Wednesday in Medford. Duffy moved to the Rogue Valley seven years ago from California to be near her daughter and son-in-law, Claire and Clayton Wight of Medford.
Born April 30, 1905, Duffy was nearly a year old when the earthquake struck on April 18, 1906. Estimated to have registered 8.3 on the Richter scale, it was the most devastating earthquake in the nation's history, killing approximately 3,000 people and leaving 225,000 homeless.
The fire sparked by the quake burned for three days, nearly gutting the city of nearly 400,000 before firefighters, hampered by the loss of the city's water system, finally stopped the blaze by using dynamite to create a fire break. Nearly 500 blocks and 28,000 buildings were leveled by the destruction caused by dynamite, fire and quake.
Duffy was one of more than a dozen earthquake survivors who attended the 100th anniversary memorial for the quake victims last year in San Francisco. She was among eight earthquake survivors who threw out the ball for the opener between host San Francisco Giants and the visiting Atlanta Braves. She was also featured in an April article on the natural disaster in the Smithsonian magazine.
Although Duffy was too young to remember the earthquake, the retired retail worker recalled in an interview with the in April 2006 what her parents told her about it.
"Right after my mother and dad decided to move to San Francisco, there was the big earthquake," she told the . "Everything was gone."
That included her mother's wedding ring, which she had apparently left near the kitchen sink after washing the dishes, she said.
"My mother tried to get back to our house to look for her wedding ring," she added. "But that's not all. She was also looking for some diapers."
Although her mother managed to get close to the ruins of their home by working her way through the rubble, she was turned back by the local militia, Duffy said.
Her parents told her about living with thousands of other survivors in a tent city set up in a park.
"It was quite a gathering," she said. "I do remember my parents saying the Salvation Army was wonderful. They served meals. People went all out to help."
Jackson County lost another 1906 earthquake survivor in late 2000 when longtime Ashland resident Don Lowe died at the age of 103. He and his father, a horse trader from Ukiah, Calif., were on the third floor of the Palace Hotel when the earthquake hit, he said in an April 18, 2000, interview with the .
"I can still remember the streets of Frisco terribly broken up and dead bodies and stuff laying around," he said at the time.
Taren Sapienza, who organized last year's earthquake memorial, estimated in 2006 that there were more than 50 1906 earthquake survivors still alive.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at .

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