What can I say about Duncan that all his family and friends don’t already know? He was a truly extraordinary person who had grown into an extraordinary young man. Like his parents, he loved to be around people and to engage with them. I think he saw me as a kind of aunt, but also as a friend: because Duncan didn’t give a hoot how old you were or how differently situated in life.
If I can choose one word to describe him, it would be vibrant. For one thing, he was a beautiful guy: deep-blue-eyed and dark-haired, an impressive presence. But he was in no way dark in spirit: on the contrary, bright and lively, full of high spirits, and extraordinarily able to express his feelings: more so than anyone I know of his age. I remember one delightful trip he made with his grandmother and me to the Japanese woodcut exhibit at the Legion of Honor a few years back. He had already been to the exhibit with his parents, but he was very eager to join us for a second round: insisted on it, in fact. He had absorbed all the ingredients parts of the show – including the technical details of print-making – in the first trip, so became our guide in the second. What an eye Duncan had, and what enthusiasm to share what he knew. It was such a memorable occasion, not least of all because he so easily expressed both love of the subject and of the people he was with.
I know Duncan had a wonderful time at Occidental: and many good friends there, with Sita his best friend of all. He was always his own person: which may have driven his teachers a little nuts (I’ve been there with my students), but I know they also recognized his great and varied talents: in science, language, and the arts: it doesn’t get more interdisciplinary than that. In some ways, I was sorry that he didn’t stick with his work at the NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. But Duncan was not someone who found it easy to work in large bureaucracies, and he was making his way in architecture so well in these last several years. His trip to Chile and time in Taiwan were the one-of-a-kind adventures that Duncan undertook fearlessly.
A brilliant person; a beloved son, grandson, and nephew; and one of the most original people I’ve ever known. I miss him very much. Rest in peace, Duncan. You will not be forgotten.