James “Jim” Duff Proud, devoted husband, father of eight, brilliant businessman, and friend to so many, passed away peacefully on May 13, 2023, at Cornerstone Hospice of the Villages, surrounded by family. He was born in Rochester, NY to Christina Duff Proud and Edward Proud, both 1st generation immigrants from Scotland who instilled in him the value of hard work and self-reliance. He had much older siblings, Christina and Walter who helped to raise him so by the time he “launched” at age 16 he was wise and mature beyond his years.
He began his 27-year career at RT French Company in Rochester, NY working in the spice mill. A few years later he was set up on a blind date with the stunning Joan McGrath. He succeeded in charming her into becoming his wife, and they were married for 68 years until Joan passed away in 2016. It was well known that Joan was especially attracted to Jim because of his middle name, which he told her was “Darling” not Duff – she wasn’t too happy, but it was too late, he had already swept her off her feet. Jim and Joan proceeded to grow their family to include 8 children – 7 girls and 1 boy.
As his family was growing, Jim transitioned into a sales role at French’s and was often on the road selling mashed potato flakes and eventually pet products, but he always made time for the kids when he was home – he is especially remembered for his fried bologna sandwiches and Sunday night specials (make your own sundae), and after-church breakfasts with the chosen child of the week.
In the early 70s, Jim left RT French to join Hartz Mountain, a move which brought the family to NJ and culminated with Jim’s retiring from Hartz as Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing in 1992.
Retirement was just another successful phase of life for Jim. He spent many years in Naples, Florida where he enjoyed playing golf, tennis, and bridge, and along with Joan, performed volunteer work for the Hospice of Naples and the Chaplain’s Office of Collier County. He also served on the Board of the Immokalee Friendship House, chaired a panel for the Collier County Foster Care Review Board, and served as President and Vice-Chairman of the Catholic Charities Foundation.
He moved to The Villages in 2004 and continued to share love and laughter with his children, his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and his many friends and admirers.
Jim was preceded in death by his wife Joan (nee McGrath), and his daughters Mary and Margaret. He is survived by his six children: Christine Payton (Donald), Kathleen Passantino (John), James Proud (Sandy), Patricia Burke (Reid), Jennifer Mearns (Geoffrey), and Joanne (Micki) Proud. He is also survived by 17 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
A memorial service celebrating his life will be held in his birthplace, Rochester, New York, later this year. The family would like to thank all the wonderful staff and caretakers who assisted Jim over the years, especially those at Freedom Pointe Assisted Living (Homewood) and Rehab, Watercrest Assisted Living, Serenades Senior Living, and Cornerstone Hospice. Memorial contributions in Jim’s name can be made to Cornerstone Hospice Foundation, 2445 Lane Park Road, Tavares, FL 32778.