Brother Joseph Stephen Dunne, CSC

March 8, 1927 – April 23, 2016

Brother-Joseph-Stephen-DunneThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Joseph Stephen Dunne, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in New York, NY, Br. Joseph died in Valatie, NY, on April 23, 2016. He was in his 61st year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Joseph Dunne, CSC, was born in New York City, New York, on March 8, 1927, the second child of James A. Dunne and Cecilia McArdle Dunne. James was a New York tax assessor, and the Dunne family lived in Yonkers, New York. On March 27, 1927, Joseph Stephen Dunne was baptized at the Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Yonkers. Joseph attended Public School #21, and after his graduation in 1945 from the Yonkers High School of Commerce, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served during WWII.

Brother-Joseph-Stephen-Dunne-2He worked aboard ship, repairing and maintaining radar guidance systems, gun drives and electrical and hydraulic systems. In 1949, a few months after his discharge from the Navy, Joseph reenlisted and served during the Korean War. During his service in the Navy, Joseph received the World War II Victory Medal, the American Area Campaign Medal and a Good Conduct Medal. At the time of his second honorable discharge on September 21, 1954, he held the rank of Fire Control Technician First Class.

Joseph returned to Yonkers and, with the blessing of his parents, decided to pursue a religious vocation. He had been attracted to religious life ever since seeing, in Our Sunday Visitor, an advertisement showing Christ saying: “You I seek. Yes, you. I love you.”

Joseph sought admission to the Brothers of Holy Cross and was accepted into St. Joseph Juniorate in Valatie, New York, on October 13, 1954. He entered St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on January 25, 1955. Brother Joseph made his first profession of vows on January 26, 1956, and his final profession on August 23, 1959. This year, 2016, marks his 60th anniversary of religious life.

In 1958, after studying at St. Edward’s University, Austin, Texas, and the Indiana State Teachers College, Terre Haute, Indiana, Br. Joseph was assigned to teach Industrial Arts at Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York. However, his manifest technical skills were quickly in demand, and from 1960 to 2005, he attended to maintenance needs, serving eventually at all of the Holy Cross schools in the Eastern Province and at the Holy Cross School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Br. Joseph then retired to St. Joseph Center, Valatie, New York.

During his many years of supporting the Holy Cross mission of education, Br. Joseph developed a great love of opera, listening to recordings and singing along. Whenever possible, he attended live performances at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. His favorite was “La Boehme,” the first opera he heard on the radio. He was working under a car at the time, and it was too much trouble to disengage himself just to change the station. With that accidental exposure to opera, the hook was set. Another interest for Br. Joseph was keeping fish, and he maintained a large aquarium in his room. While he was still mobile, Br. Joseph enjoyed monthly visits to his family members in Nyack, New York.

Br. Joseph’s retirement years at St. Joseph Center were spent peacefully. Besides his daily commitment to prayer, he filled his time smoking cigars, listening to opera and Rush Limbaugh, and discussing the New York major league baseball teams with his confreres.

Following his hospitalization in March of 2009, Br. Joseph became a resident of Barnwell Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Valatie, New York. Br. Joseph passed away there on the morning of April 23, 2016, the day before the celebration of his 60th anniversary as a Holy Cross religious by the community at St. Joseph Center.

Br. Joseph Dunne is survived by his sister, Rita Dunne, of LaBelle, Florida, and other family members. His niece, Chris Russell of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, was very close to Br. Joseph and visited him frequently.

Br. William Zaydak, CSC

The First to Laugh…

Brother-Joseph-Stephen-Dunne-3For anyone wondering “is he or isn’t he?” (wearing his shoes, that is)…..I’m not!  I’m a shoeless organist and, at this age and girth, much too slow to get the shoes on for these few remarks in remembrance of our brother, Joseph Dunne.  What would Joe think?  The answer is there on the cover of your program.  Check that impish smile, and if you listen carefully you might hear that sly giggle – always so captivating and contagious – shoes or no shoes.

Joseph Dunne lived his life as a decent human being.  He was a simple man in the best sense of the word.  It wasn’t that he belittled or undervalued himself or was excessively modest.  He quite simply responded to an invitation to “seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.”  For Joe, the birds of the air and the flowers of the field teach us by their silence that we are to be silent and reverent before God as well.  To the words of Jesus to “look at the birds of the air; look at the flowers of the field,” we could add, “look at Joseph Dunne.”

Is it possible that this lies at the heart of Joe’s seemingly carefree attitude that was bane to some, and boon to others?  To me it was both.  I lived in community with Joe for only a short time.  He moved to Barnwell about four years after my coming to St. Joseph Center.

Stories of Br. Joseph Dunne were legendary.  He had retired from maintenance work in our schools and other institutions, so I didn’t have to face one administrator’s challenge when Joe reported to the Brother that the lawn mower that needed his look-see was taken apart, everything cleaned, and put back together.  One little glitch – but not to worry as Joe had it handled – literally, there in the palm of his hand were a few parts of the mower that he had no idea where they belonged.  A Brother who had worked with Joe before advised the administrator to look into replacing anything that broke down and needed Joe’s rebuilding attention.

While Joe was here at the Center, I’d often see him sitting outside, either in the front of the building or at the end of the extended wing with lit or unlit stogie in the mouth, earphones to the ear, and rosary in hand.  I assumed he was listening to a broadcast of Family Rosary’s rosary recitation until he informed me it was a sportscast that he was listening to.  He never gave a second thought to my admonition that Mary, Mother of God, was not happy about this time-share from a smoking son.

You need to know that I tried hard to get each of your names burned into Joe’s memory.  I quizzed him regularly, but it never became a success story.  He could generally get my first name, but only when I gave up and we went on to other topics of conversation that he would suddenly interrupt to say “it’s Ed.”  The last name I could get from him by asking: “What’s the opposite of girl?” and he would correctly answer “boy” and then, when prompted to add “er,” he’d come up with “Boyer.”

On several occasions, I told him if there were still a purgatory, his task prior to entering the pearly gates would be to recite by heart the names of members listed in the community directory.  I doubt that even God, at that point, would care if Joe put the name to the right face.

Joe was the charming challenger of Barnwell Nursing Home & Rehab Center personnel.  A phone call one day informed me that our Brother Joseph Dunne had eloped.  “HE WHAT?”  “He eloped,” came the repetition matter-of-factly.  “WITH WHOM?” I demanded.  After the laughter ended at the other end of the phone, I got the explanation.  Apparently in such facilities, the term “elope” refers to anyone who has strayed beyond the limits to which they’re assigned.  Joe had made it from his first floor living quarters to the fifth floor.  When the distraught nurses found him, they told him he caused them a lot of paperwork they now had to fill out on this deviation of protocol.  Joe told them to give him the forms and he’d fill them out – broad smile, giggle, and case closed!  When I asked Joe how he was able to silence the alarm at the door, he told me he simply started pushing the buttons at number one and continued in sequence. When he got to 5 the door unlocked.  I reported to staff they might want to consider a change in that obvious number series.  I wonder how many protocols have been revised at Barnwell due to the mischief of our Br. Joe Dunne.

Brother-Joseph-Stephen-Dunne-4As Joe declined, he found himself in a world that was happy and comfortable to him.  If he was aware of his decline, it never became obvious to us.  He would sometimes find himself with a parent who had visited, or back on a ship to which he was assigned, or happily on his way to Providence, Rhode Island.  And, I can tell you that you could take that man out of maintenance, but you couldn’t take the maintenance out of the man.  According to witnesses, when Joe was found on his back and bleeding after having fallen out of bed, his response to “What happened….are you all right?” was, “I didn’t know they had a sprinkling system in here.”

I also have a few first-hand tales of the quest labeled, “Where in the world are Joe Dunne’s teeth?” …but not here in this religious setting.  So, any one of Joe’s care givers in the assembly who joined in the quest…relax, and breathe!

Joe was always the first to laugh, and his carefree laughter passed right through any and all gathered around him.  It is, and will remain, his legacy …a rare, but much needed gift in our world these days and, indeed, in our own aging journey.  We’re told in the gospel of Matthew that “unless you become like little children you will never enter God’s kingdom.”  It seems our brother Joe, who was always the first to laugh, has also today more than ever – the last laugh.

Happy Eternity, Joe!

– Eulogy delivered by Br. Edward Boyer, CSC
Chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
April 28, 2016

The Next Assignment

Brother-Joseph-Stephen-Dunne-5I have had the great privilege of traveling great distances with Br. Joe.  On more than one occasion, we were off the coast of Russia on a naval ship.  True to form, this did not appear to create any stress for Br. Joe.  He did wonder lackadaisically what might happen next, but it didn’t seem to exactly concern him.

We also traveled inwardly occasionally, a different kind of distance.  I heard about some of the work Br. Joe did, his love for opera, (sometimes tearfully) and on one occasion, more tearfully, working on a gun ship.

I got the sense that though dementia had left him generally as serene as he had been pre-dementia, the sense of working in the cause of war was one thing that upset him, breaking through past and present.

Though off the coast of Russia might seem exotic, Br. Joe was particularly adept at keeping one precisely in the present…paying keen attention to all the present details…the bird outside, the flowers – each one individually, the children walking by, the pipes visible beneath the ceiling…all just as a zen master might propose.

Brother Joe always responded to being called “Brother” and often was awaiting his next assignment.

A few weeks ago, very out of character, Brother Joe told me of a dream he had had the night before.  There was a staircase in the middle of a field.  And it was surrounded by children.  When I suggested he might be going to heaven soon, he definitively agreed.  On Saturday, his long awaited next assignment finally arrived.

Eleanor Prior
Pastoral Coordinator
Chapel of St. Joseph Center, Valatie, NY
April 28, 2016

Br. Joseph Stephen Dunne, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1958-1960 TEACHER, Holy Cross HS – Flushing, NY
  • 1960-1961 MAINTENANCE, Bishop Hendricken HS – Warwick, RI
  • 1961-1964 St. Joseph Novitiate – Valatie, NY
  • 1964-1965 Pius XII – Chester, NY
  • 1965-1967 St. Joseph Novitiate – Valatie, NY
  • 1967-1969 Moreau Hall – North Easton, MA
  • 1969-1971 Bishop McNamara HS – Forestville, MD
  • 1971-1972 Cardinal Mooney HS – Rochester, NY
  • 1972-1986 Holy Cross HS – Waterbury, CT
  • 1986-1988 Holy Cross School – New Orleans, LA
  • 1988-1990 Notre Dame HS – West Haven, CT
  • 1990-1992 St. Louis Community – West Haven, CT
  • 1992-1993 St. Paul’s Church – Wilmington, DE
  • 1993-2005 Bishop McNamara HS – Forestville, MD
  • 2005-2009 RETIRED, St. Joseph Center – Valatie, NY
  • 2009-2016 Barnwell Nursing Home – Valatie, NY