David H. Dunton

February 3, 1930 ~ June 17, 2020 (age 90)


“Well, I was trying to make it to 100, but I guess I don’t need to worry about that anymore.”  This was Dave’s reaction to being told he had terminal cancer.  Dave was always a jokester, class clown in school and effervescent personality throughout his lifetime.  He was born in 1930 and grew up in North Adams, MA with his sister Dorothy, with whom he was always close.  Dave was a popular classmate and was class president twice,serving on the prom committee in addition to many extracurricular activities.  After graduating from Drury High School he joined the Army and served from 1948 to 1952.  In college at Leland Powers Dave studied all aspects of performance and broadcasting, later quipping “It’s the only time I did well in school.”  He was aided in his studies by straight A student Joan Tolentino, and they were married a few months after graduation.  Dave and Joan were married for 64 years before her passing in 2019.  Their daughter Katie was born in 1965, and Dave said “Life was never the same, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing!”  Dave liked to regale his daughter with tales of her childhood.  One time when Katie was an infant, Dave was changing her diaper and dropped the diaper pin (no plastic diapers and tape in those days).   She rolled off the changing table and onto his back.  He slowly lowered until completely flat and got her onto the floor without incident.  “Either that or I dropped her on her head and that explains a lot!” he remarked.  The Duntons were active in all sorts of creative endeavors including acting and singing.  Weekend trips involved singing in the car; tunes from musicals and Peter, Paul and Mary songs were favorites.  Dave told Katie the way to sing harmony:  “Mummy sings the melody, I’ll sing the low part and you find the notes in between.”  This was the foundation of Katie’s lifelong love of singing.  Dave’s talents also included playing clarinet and saxophone.  He had begun clarinet in middle school and performed with a special services band in the Army.  During his time off he sought out jam sessions with local bands in Germany and Belgium where he was stationed.  Heloved jazz and the musicians were quite pleased to have an American in their band.  Once Dave was asked if he played tenor sax and even though he’d never played one before he said yes.  Dave wrote home and asked his father to send his clarinet, which he sold to buy a saxophone for the gig and he had a new favorite instrument.  After many years Dave picked up the clarinet again and played with the Roma Band of Boston for 25 years, often spending weekends marching through the North End playing for the religious feasts.  Concurrently, Dave sang inthe Men’s Schola of St. Paul Parish in Cambridge.  His strong bass voice was featured in church choirs throughout the years, including most recently St. Agnes Parish in Arlington.  Dave was active throughout his life in a variety of creative pursuits, including creating the signs at the Memorial Drive Trader Joe’s location, before corporate standardized the artwork across all the stores.  He restored Crèche figures, stations of the cross, and statues for churches throughout the Boston area and Providence, RI.  Dave was a prolific composer and arranger, and his piece entitled “Whither Thou Goest” was performed in 2015 by the M.I.T. Women’s Chorale, of which Katie was a member.  He wrote a musical, a play, poetry – sometimes serious but mostly humorous - and limericks for his friends.  Perhaps hisfavorite endeavor was puppetry.  As a teenager he was intrigued by the mechanics of marionettes, so he studied the art and made his own.  One of his marionettes won him top honors in a folk and culture class at Harvard, where he took extension classes and earned an Associate in Arts Degree. Katie joined him in 1975, to kick off bicentennial celebrations with a show called “Hysterical Follies”, where a field reporter interviewed famous historical figures.  The musical show was recorded at the dining room table, with Dave doing most of the voices except Betsy Ross, voiced by consummate actress and superb comedienne Joan.  Puppet shows and puppet making demonstrations were popular with the residents at the VNA Senior Living Residence where he and Joan lived from 2014 on.  Friends and family describe Dave as upbeat and positive, someone who lit up the room, an engaging conversationalist on a wide range of topics.  These include history of all sorts especially ancient cultures, movies of the 30s and 40s, science and technology, and of course theater and music.  Katie often said he’d read anything from an enormous tome to a milk carton – if it contained words he read it.  Favorite authors were Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Henry David Thoreau and writers of the Romantic period.  He was fascinated by genealogy and traced his family line back to the 1600s.  He searched for references to his branch of the Dunton clan, found in David McCullough’s novel John Adams, among many others.  Dave enjoyed visiting places where Duntons and family connections were the subject of public interest, including Widener Library at Harvard University, the Royall House in Medford and Reading, founded by Thomas Dunton and incorporated in 1644. Dave was surprised to discover, on an engraving inside the Provincetown Monument, that he had been off by a year, but pleased to have concrete or as he put it “granite evidence” of the date, and corrected his family genealogy immediately upon return home.  Dave felt fortunate to experience the advent of technology from the ice box to a refrigerator that tells you what groceries you need, early talking pictures to movies with digital animation and spectacular special effects, looking up information in an encyclopedia to the internet, of which he was a daily user.  Upon taking his first selfie with his daughter, he exclaimed “It’s a miracle!”  Dave enjoyed life and many would say he certainly lived it to the fullest.  Above all, Dave enriched the lives of everyone with whom he came in contact, with his boundless energy, positive attitude and sharp wit. He will be sorely missed.  

Dave is survived by his daughter Katie Dunton and her partner Donna Mayo of Belmont, his sister Dorothy DeFazio of Buzzards Bay, and several nieces and nephews.  A Private interment for family only will be held in July in Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne. Donations may be made in Dave’s memory to Save a Sato in Puerto Rico or to Homes for Our Troops.

Dave & Joan will be remembered at Easter Mass at 11 am on Sunday, April 4, 2021 at St. Paul's in Cambridge.  Katie & Donna will also be hosting a celebration of life party later in the summer of 2021.  Date & location TBA.

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Private Interment

Massachusetts National Cemetery, Bourne

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