John Philip Dunfey Print E-mail

John Philip Dunfey

Founder and Chairman, Global Citizens Circle; Founder and CEO, Omni Hotels International; Owned and Renovated Parker House (1968-1988)

John Philip Dunfey, a World War II veteran who dedicated much of his life to fostering world peace and social justice, died at age 96 on June 22, 2020, in Hampton, NH. Known as ‘Jack’ to friends, he spent decades of behind-the-scenes work in support of causes such as the peace process in Northern Ireland and human rights efforts in South Africa, Cuba, Central America, South America, and the Middle East. Notably, Dunfey spearheaded his family’s efforts in 1974 to launch Global Citizens Circle. Originally known as New England Circle, the not-for-profit entity continues its mission almost 50 years later to “...gather diverse, intergenerational voices addressing critical issues and building the trust needed for sustainable change in ourselves, our nation, and our world.”

Dunfey was born in Lowell, MA, on January 7, 1924, to former millworkers, Catherine A. Manning and LeRoy W. Dunfey. The fifth of twelve children, Jack began his work career as did all his siblings at a very young age in his parents’ small luncheonette in the Acre section of Lowell.

After graduating from Lowell’s Keith Academy, Jack joined the U.S. Air Force in 1943, attaining the rank of first lieutenant while serving as a B-24 and B-29 pilot instructor. Following his honorable discharge in 1946, he earned his bachelor of science degree in business at the University of New Hampshire in 1952.

He also led his family's business. From 1950 to 1988, the enterprise expanded from New England-area luncheonettes, clam stands, and pizza shops to the Dunfey Hotel Corporation, whose hallmark became refurbishing downtrodden inner-city hotels.  When the Corporation acquired Omni Hotels International—with its dozens of properties worldwide, including London and Paris—Jack kept the corporate headquarters rooted in Hampton, NH, to help preserve the close employee-management relationship that was so much a part of the early family business.

The acquisition and restoration of the historic Parker House Hotel in Boston in 1968 — in the era of assassinations, the Vietnam War, and Civil Rights Movement — provided Jack and his siblings a prominent base to advance their beliefs in social justice. For many years, he led human rights missions into neglected corners of the world with his personal goal of releasing political prisoners. His favorite saying was: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” He was kind, thoughtful and generous with his immediate and extended family and with the larger human family.

The missions to Cuba, for his meetings with Fidel Castro, led to the release of 87 prisoners, the removal of landmines in Angola, and the freeing up of food supplies to enter Ethiopia.

While a staunch Democrat, Jack was noted for working across party lines to achieve his objectives. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan, a staunch Republican, appointed Dunfey as one of the nine-member commission founders of the United States Institute for Peace, tasked with promoting conflict resolution and peace worldwide.

Jack was also a founding board member of the American Ireland Funds. He and his brothers, Bob and Walter, were recognized as bridge-builders and advocates of cross-community dialogue during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. When John Hume and David Trimble were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994, they invited Jack and Bob to travel with them and their families to Oslo.

That same year, Jack was also appointed an independent, international monitor in South Africa's historic first election of Nelson Mandela as president.

Jack is survived by his wife, Lisa Timpé Dunfey, Boston, MA; three children, Susan Dunfey, Rye, NH; David Dunfey, Sebastian, Florida; Stephen Dunfey, Portsmouth, NH; and three siblings, Eileen Dunfey Robinson, Bradenton, Florida; Jerry Dunfey and his wife, Nadine Hack, Lutry, Switzerland; Eleanor Dunfey and her husband, James Freiburger, Exeter, NH; and many nieces, nephews and cousins whom he cherished. 

Jack was preceded in death by his son, Philip; and Joan Lannan Dunfey, the mother of his children, as well as eight siblings: Roy, Paul, Kay, Mary, Bud (Bill), Robert (Bob), Richard (Dick), and Walter.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the family plans a memorial to celebrate Jack’s life at a later date,

In lieu of flowers, the family requests a contribution to support the continued mission of Global Citizens Circle, 661 Douglas St, Manchester, NH 03012;

The Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA or The Ireland Funds of America.

E-condolences at Arrangements by the O’DONNELL FUNERAL HOME in LOWELL, MA - (978) 458-8768.





Condolences (7)
  • Rev. Marcel Bouchard  - Former Pastor, St. Mary, Our Lady of the Isle, Nan
    Dear Lisa, Forgive my delay in getting this to you. I remember with great fondness all you and Jack did to help me meet some of the wonderful people of Nantucket. I extend my sympathy and a promise of my prayers for Jack’s rest and for your consolation. I will celebrate Mass for him at my earliest opportunity. Fr. Marcel
  • Liz Greene  - With Love and Gratitude
    My heart is filled with sadness to hear of Jack's passing. We send our most heartfelt condolences to his dear family, and to everyone who knew him, loved him and was inspired because of him. The world has lost a powerful force for beneficence, democracy, and peace. There may be comfort in the truth that his work will live on in the daily acts of the tens of thousands of people galvanized by his legacy. Indeed, the indomitable fire of his impact burns brightly through those furthering his ideals and objectives to create a fairer, and more loving world.
  • Wayne D. King  - A Ripple of Hope
    My heartfelt condolences to the entire Dunfey family. I want to say that Jack was one of a kind, because he certainly was. He was also one among a ring of "ripples of hope" that is the Dunfey family. The mark he made on the world continues to inspire and to spread those ripples that Bobby Kennedy spoke of all those years ago in South Africa. I pray that all of you will find peace in remembering the gifts he gave all of us. Thank you Jack. . . thank you.
  • Cathy Burns
    To the Dunfey Family: On behalf of a grateful nation, and the Department of NH, VFW/Auxiliary District #7, we wish to acknowledge your loved one's service to our country, and send our deepest condolences on your loss. District #7 Chaplain, Cathy Burns
  • Paul Kirk  - Eternal Rest, Jack
    My deepest sympathy to all of Jack's surviving loved ones. He served his family, his country and his communities, local and global, with honor and distinction. Prayers for Jack's eternal peace and for the strength of all who will miss his friendship in all the days ahead.
  • Mike Downes
    Eileen, Jerry, Eleanor, Susan, David and Stephen, my condolences on Jack’s passing. His legacy will live on because of the incredible accomplishments in improving the human condition around the globe.
  • Joe Enright  - Goodnight Sweet Prince
    What a man, what a life. May “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
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