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Thomas Russell Kieran Dugan

Thomas Russell Kieran Dugan

Thomas Russell Kieran Dugan died on April 26, 2009, at 83, after a year-long battle with cancer.

He was born June 27, 1925, in Taunton, Massachusetts, to Gertrude (Russell) and Edward Dugan. The eldest of five children, he graduated from Notre Dame University as a Brother in the Congregation of Holy Cross, where he took the religious first name "Kerran," later modified to "Kieran." He taught at Chicago's Holy Cross High School until 1952. Leaving the Brotherhood, he spent a year in Angers, France, studying philosophy at Catholic University of Angers on the first scholarship ever granted an American; and did his post-graduate work at Howard University in Washington, D.C., the only Caucasian student at the time.

Kieran was active in groups promoting racial equality, and worked as a live-in counselor at the D.C. jail. In the 1940s he began free-lancing for the newspaper published by the Catholic Worker, a social justice organization started by activist Dorothy Day. In 1956, he moved to New York City and joined the Catholic Worker editorial staff.

In 1957 Kieran and other protesters were jailed for a month in Manhattan's notorious "Tombs" for refusing to take shelter during a nuclear air raid drill. His energetic role in anti-war and social justice issues is cited in numerous books about the Catholic "counterculture" of the period. His articles and cartoons about politics and social causes appeared in numerous periodicals, including Today, America, and Catholic Digest, and in syndication for Catholic News Service; and he was Vice-Chairman of the Catholic peace group American Pax Association.

In New York, Kieran met Beat Generation icons such as Jack Kerouac, Julian Beck and Judith Malina (founders of the Living Theater), and David Amram. But the strongest bond was formed in 1958, when he met Sheila Johnson, an energetic 19-year-old Catholic Worker volunteer from Hibbing, Minnesota. Sheila and Kieran married in August 1958, and had five daughters. Around the same time, he was hired as a staff editor for the research periodical "Current Biography."

In 1988 Kieran retired and moved to Oregon, where two of his daughters lived. An avid conversationalist and witty, erudite debater, he made many new friends during his 21 years in Oregon. He continued to pen the monthly obituaries for Current Biography until just eight weeks before his death. A punctilious perfectionist as a writer, he distilled and polished his biographies of the deceased until they were little gems.

Although Sheila and Kieran separated in the early 1970s and later divorced, they remained close friends. Kieran spent his last month at Sheila's home in Pennsylvania, where she gave him loving care until his death.

Kieran is survived by his ex-wife, Sheila Dugan, of Milanville, Pa.; and by his five daughters and their families, Marianne, Michael, and Selena Dugan-Fields of Eugene, Ore.; Felicia, Tom, and Audrey Hazel of Talent, Ore.; and Sophie DiStefano of Venice, Calif. (and her dad, Gary DiStefano of Phoenix, Ore.); Ianthe Jeanne Dugan and Caitlin Cooper, of New York City (and Caitlin's dad, Jim Cooper of New York City); Elena Dugan (and partner, William Shaw) of St. Cloud, Minn.; and Erika and Denny Gordon, of Hillsboro, Ore. and Trevor Williams (and his dad, Carlo Williams) of Agoura Hills, Calif. One grandchild, Evian Dugan DiStefano, preceded him in death in 2006. Kieran is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law Edward and Lorraine Dugan of Taunton, Mass. and his sister and brother-in-law Carol and Tommy Lucet of Beverly, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial will be held at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at Garden Way Park in Ashland (Clark Ave, off Walker). In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to any service for the visually impaired or Ashland Community Hospital Hospice.

Thomas Russell Kieran Dugan