A Tribute to K Dun Gifford, Andrea Doria Survivor and Kennedy Aide

Mr. Gifford began his many illustrious careers after graduating from the Harvard Law School and serving three years in the Navy. He was an investment banker, a real estate developer, a restaurant owner, and for the past 20 years a driving force in the movement to promote the health benefits and culinary appeal of the Mediterranean diet.

His father was a Republican, but Mr. Gifford became a Democrat by the time he graduated from Harvard College in 1960. After a year with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Gifford became a legislative assistant to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, before joining Robert Kennedy’s presidential bid as a national campaign coordinator.

The Boston Globe reported, “Mr. Gifford was walking behind Kennedy in a Los Angeles hotel when Sirhan Sirhan began shooting. He was among those who tackled Sirhan, telling the Providence Journal in 1998 that ‘people were piling on, hitting him, berating him…. I went to law school and wanted to have him alive and not dead.”

The following summer, Mr. Gifford was at his family’s summer home on Nantucket when he was called to Martha’s Vineyard to assist the Kennedys after Edward Kennedy drove his car off a bridge at Chappaquiddick. A passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died in the accident, and Mr. Gifford escorted her body to her family’s home in Pennsylvania.

Leaving politics in 1970, Mr. Gifford worked on major development projects for several years at Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, a real estate company in Boston, then went off to forge his own business deals.

Although Dun’s family is proud of all his business and political accomplishments, his son summarizes what he will be remembered for: “The most overarching thing for me about dad was his commitment to public service, which was so much a part of him that it was inseparable from his daily life in whom he was… He was also a master of the small, kind gesture.”

Mr. Gifford began displaying his humanitarian ways, even as a teenager, at the very moment when he should have been worried about his own humanity. His sister Bambi recalls, “Dun didn’t have his life jacket (after the collision). So he went back to his cabin. He noticed the weird angle that the clothes in the closet were hanging; since he was a sailor he knew that the boat was in trouble. He grabbed two jackets, thinking that his two friends might not have one. When he rejoined us he saw that they both had life jackets. He then walked around until he found someone who did not have one. It turned out to be a crew member.”

The Andrea Doria tragedy did not stop Dun from fully enjoying the sea. In fact, he was the navigator of the Constellation in the America’s Cup in 1964. He continued to navigate until the end of his days.

We, your fellow survivors, thank you, Dun, for your humanitarian deeds and your inspiration to navigate through life challenges with courage and dignity.

Postscript: Mr. Gifford died of a heart attack Sunday in Exeter, N.H., after returning from a trip to France and Australia. He lived in Cambridge. In addition to his son, brother, and companion Baer-Sinnott, Mr. Gifford leaves two other sons, Porter of Cambridge and Clarence of New York City; a daughter, Caroline of Newfane, Vt., who is known as Apple; another brother, John of Brookline; a sister, Priscilla (Bambi) Mleczko of Nantucket; and five grandchildren.

NB: On the last voyage of the Andrea Doria, Mr. Gifford was traveling in first class with his parents, brothers Jock and Chad, and sister Priscilla (Bambi). They were returning from a journey to London, Paris, Brussels, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Venice, Rome, and finally Naples. For a full account of the family story as written by Bambi Mleczko, http://www.PieretteSimpson.com/blog.