Alfred Parsons Duncker bio
Alfred Parsons Duncker, born October 6, 1938, in New York City to German immigrant parents August Carl Heinrich Duncker and Anna Mueller Duncker, died peacefully at home in Gaithersburg, Maryland on Monday, August 14, 2023 from natural causes after fighting metastatic prostate cancer for nearly six years.
Alfred, known lovingly as Al, was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bronx. While his brother, Ernie, rooted for the Yankees, Al was a Dodgers fan until their move to Los Angeles in 1958. Their parents owned a delicatessen in East Harlem and the Center Diner in Peekskill, NY. Al's famous fluffy scrambled eggs and cinnamon French toast breakfasts were perfected as a youth working in the family diner.
Al had a full life centered around his family and his hobbies. He was gifted with an intellect that took him to the Bronx High School of Science, onto Union College and ultimately to Columbia, where he achieved his PhD in Political Science in 1968. Al taught political science at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY before being recruited to serve on the White House Conference on Aging in 1970. That appointment changed the course of his life as he moved his family to Alexandria, VA and started a career as a civil servant for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which later became the Health and Human Services (HHS). While Al's career at HHS' Administration on Aging gave him a sense of purpose and drive, his real love and dedication was to his wife and children.
While studying at Union College, he met the first love of his life, Karen Elizabeth Parsons. Karen was attending Skidmore College nearby and they connected on a blind date in Saratoga Springs. Al mistakenly referred to Karen as "Debbie" and she didn't correct him, thinking they wouldn't meet again. They married on December 31, 1960, and enjoyed a loving partnership and full life with three children: John Charles Duncker, James Parsons Duncker and Caroline Duncker Carlson for nearly 40 years until Karen's untimely death in 1999.
Al's commitment to his family was readily apparent. He coached soccer and basketball, volunteered on the swim deck as a timer (with stop watches in those days), and skipped around the track at all three kids' endless soccer games. When Caroline couldn't find a soccer team to join at the age of five, he placed her on an all-boys team to get her some experience running up and down the field. As Al had played basketball as a starter in high school and college, he was a natural coaching his sons and daughter on the court as well.
His coaching achievements included taking Caroline's undefeated fifth-grade basketball team and Jamie's eighth-grade team to the championships! He was known for his shouts of encouragement, occasional frustration and frequent technical fouls. He was also well known for his sense of humor and propensity to laugh.
While embarrassing to his kids at times, like outbursts in the movie theater, Al's laugh was robust, full and unabashed. It was contagious and his inclination to rib and tease was present until the end. He didn't take himself too seriously and he loved being teased back. He was often tapped to roast his colleagues in retirement and had such a gift with prose and delivery.
Seven years after Karen's death, Al met the second love of his life, Ann Sugg Lindley. Ann and Al met playing bridge and Ann famously asked Al out on their first date. After just three months of dating, Al got to the point and proposed: "We can live together or get married," to which Ann responded, "What are you doing tomorrow?" Ann and Al enjoyed nearly 17 years of bliss before Ann succumbed to acute leukemia and died at the end of January 2023. Al loved his stepchildren and grandchildren immensely and Ann and Al's move to Gaithersburg, Maryland in 2013 secured their ability to attend activities and be involved in their lives.
Al and Ann traveled all over the world, including Africa, Australia and New Zealand, Hawaii, Norway, Alaska, the Galapagos Islands, and river cruises throughout Europe. When prompted about their next trip, they would quip, "We are spending our children's inheritance!" None of us minded.
In addition to Al's passion for bridge and travel, he was a life-long Washington Capitals fan and season ticket holder for 20 years. It was a special moment to celebrate the Stanley Cup Championship in 2018 with his number one son, John, before John died of pancreatic cancer over a year later.
When asked, Al would say, "I hit the jackpot twice." He respected the institution of marriage. He was a loving, gentle husband who favored pet names, hand holding and easy moments. He thought marriage was a natural state and that may account for his almost 65 years of marriage before losing both wives to cancer.
Al was a dedicated man to his wives, to his children, to his grandchildren and to his friends. He was a giver. He offered an ear, a shoulder, candid advice, certain generosity and his time. He loved completely and without condition. His heart was the largest among humans. He loved God and he worshipped regularly. He accepted people for who they were. He was an incredible gift to all of us and he will be missed immensely.
He is survived by his brother, Ernest August Duncker and sister-in-law, Judith Duncker; his son, James Parsons Duncker, his daughter Caroline Duncker Carlson and her husband Mark Eugene McHugh and grandson John Algot Carlson III. Also, his five stepchildren Robin and Buff Colchagoff, Blair Bumgardner, Todd and Michelle Bumgardner, Paige and Andy Pagley, Tiercy Hadlock and his 13 step grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held Friday, September 8 at 11 a.m. at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. Donations may be made in his memory to the American Cancer Society or National Presbyterian Church.