Clifford E. 'Duby' Tucker, 101,
lifelong resident of South County
By GERALD S. GOLDSTEIN
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Clifford E. "Duby" Tucker, 101, of 273 Pond St., a classic swamp Yankee who dined on fried eels and delighted in reminiscing beside his potbellied stove, died Sunday at the Westerly Health Center. He was the husband of the late Margaret (Holgate) Tucker.
A wiry figure who barely topped out at 5 feet, Mr. Tucker lived his entire life in the South County region, wringing a living from it by running a fish market, spearing eels, crabbing and laboring in textile mills.
Even at the age of 100, the elfin Mr. Tucker was a familiar sight behind the wheel of his Mercury station wagon.
On the road, his only concession to age was a refusal to make left turns across oncoming traffic, because "I don't trust the other guy." So whatever his destination, Mr. Tucker drove a circuitous route that would get him there with turns only to the right.
Born in 1896, when Grover Cleveland was president, Mr. Tucker delivered the old Evening Bulletin to earn enough for his first car, a used Ford that he bought for $15 in 1919.
Required as a boy to support six younger siblings when his father died suddenly, he learned early to be resourceful with a dollar. And true to his Yankee heritage, he was just as economical with words.
Mr. Tucker downplayed the observance of his 100th birthday in 1996, saying "birthdays are not good for you."
In providing his recipe for cooking eels, he said, "First you parboil 'em, then fry 'em. Never eat eels that's just plain boiled -- a boiled fish is a spoiled fish."
Noting in his later years that eels had declined in popularity at dinner tables, he mused, "The world's gone daffy."
Asked about longevity, he advised: "Throw away those damn cigarettes." He attributed his long life to his avoidance of tobacco and liquor, and to hard work.
Mr. Tucker, who lived with a niece, whiled away his hours in a rocking chair near the woodstove in his garage workshop, which was awash in dusty model shops, fish nets, eel spears and coffee cans brimming with nuts and bolts.
He loved to tell visitors about his beloved Boston Red Sox, recalling that he saw them play the New York Giants in the World Series of 1912 -- the year Fenway Park opened. Mr. Tucker, then 16, took the train from Peace Dale to Boston, then walked the remaining two miles to Fenway Park, where he bought a 50-cent ticket that gave him standing room on the perimeter of center field, patrolled by Boston's immortal Tris Speaker.
Explaining where he got the nickname Duby, Mr. Tucker said that he had been a cutup in school and "my teacher kept telling me, 'Clifford, do be quiet. Do be still. Do be this, do be that.' "
Asked once why he had never lived anywhere but South County, Mr. Tucker replied, "There ain't no better place."
Mr. Tucker was born in Wakefield, a son of the late William and Nancy (Whipple) Tucker.
He leaves two nephews, Arthur Malenfant of Cambridge, Mass., and Clifford Malenfant of Elpena, Mich.; and two nieces, Marjorie Stevens of Wakefield, with whom he made his home, and Nancy Maziarz of Hopedale, N.J.
The funeral will be Monday, Jan. 26, at 1 p.m. in the Avery-Storti Funeral Home, 88 Columbia St., Wakefield. Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery, Wakefield.