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Catherine<br />

duffy houghton<br />

Community Activist & P<strong>hi</strong>lanthropist<br />

Living a meaningful life<br />

by Patti Samar<br />

Catherine Duffy Houghton, 98, of Fort Gratiot, began her self-proclaimed<br />

“love affair” with trains when she took her first ride on one at the age of just<br />

two years old.<br />

Fate s<strong>hi</strong>ned a bright light down on her when she grew up and married a<br />

man whose family owned a railroad.<br />

“I was just batty about trains,” she said, “and here comes t<strong>hi</strong>s guy with<br />

trains! I was so excited I was with a family that owned a railroad. What<br />

more could you wish for?”<br />

That man was George Duffy, whose family owned the 19-mile long Port<br />

Huron & Detroit Railroad, and Duffy Houghton felt truly blessed to be<br />

<strong>hi</strong>s wife for 45 years. Together, they had three now-grown c<strong>hi</strong>ldren: George<br />

“Sandy” Duffy, Jr.; Michaele “Mino” Duffy Kramer; and Katherine<br />

“Kathy” Duffy, all of whom still live in the Blue Water Area. Duffy<br />

Houghton’s marriage to George and, subsequently, after <strong>hi</strong>s death to<br />

Englishman Herbert Houghton, took Duffy Houghton on a fun-filled and<br />

meaningful life path that saw significant life changes for women and left her<br />

with a global view of the world that one can only obtain after almost 10<br />

decades on the planet.<br />

A Midwestern gal who was born in Cleveland, O<strong>hi</strong>o, Duffy Houghton<br />

eventually settled in suburban Detroit, where she completed <strong>hi</strong>gh school at<br />

the notable Kingswood School Cranbrook, on the campus of what is now<br />

known primarily as Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills. W<strong>hi</strong>le there,<br />

she took ceramics classes from the renowned Marshall Fredericks, who later<br />

went on to sculpt many famous public art pieces, including the “Spirit of<br />

Detroit” and the Night and Day sculptures in front of McMorran Place in<br />

Port Huron. She continued her friends<strong>hi</strong>p with <strong>hi</strong>m until <strong>hi</strong>s death a number<br />

of years ago.<br />

Following <strong>hi</strong>gh school, she attended Sarah Lawrence College, a school of<br />

the arts for women, near Bronxville, New York, in Westchester County. The<br />

following year, she attended Connecticut College.<br />

Following her collegiate years, Duffy Houghton eventually followed her<br />

parents when they moved to Port Huron. Here, she worked in the office of<br />

the local American Red Cross chapter as a secretary until her marriage to<br />

6 FALL <strong>2016</strong> BlueWaterWoman.com<br />

George Duffy.<br />

Throughout her first marriage, Duffy Houghton was a wife, mother and<br />

involved community citizen, volunteering with projects for her c<strong>hi</strong>ldren and<br />

causes that were dear to her. To t<strong>hi</strong>s day she very carefully follows local, state<br />

and national politics and during the 1960s she was very involved with the<br />

Republican party.<br />

“I was president of the Republican Women’s Club,” she said, noting<br />

that her c<strong>hi</strong>ldren recall, from a young age, being dragged along to local<br />

Republican headquarters to stuff and stamp envelopes during campaign<br />

seasons. Today, Duffy Houghton feels disappointed in a Republican party<br />

that she doesn’t recognize.<br />

She recalled hosting former Mic<strong>hi</strong>gan Governor George Romney in her<br />

home and she called former Governor William Milliken a “gentleman.” She<br />

chuckled when recalling her “Obama” sticker on her car years ago. “Can you<br />

imagine? The former president of the Republican Women’s Club?”<br />

Duffy Houghton closely follows current events and there are issues that<br />

are near and dear to her heart and she is generous in her support of those<br />

good causes.<br />

“It’s hugely important to me (to give back),” she said. “There is so much<br />

that needs doing and these organizations just don’t have the money needed<br />

to do it all.”<br />

Issues of greatest importance to her include the environment, Planned<br />

Parenthood and, as an accomplished artist herself, the arts.<br />

“The world’s population is a great big huge problem,” she said. “It touches<br />

our <strong>water</strong> systems, it touches our school systems and many other facets of<br />

life.” She is fascinated with what she has read about stem cell research and<br />

she considers it a personal responsibility to have a global view of the world.<br />

She noted that young people need to be encouraged to look creatively at<br />

the world and its problems and to be creative in their thoughts and actions.<br />

“All older people should feel the way I do because we have somet<strong>hi</strong>ng to<br />

compare our world view to,” she said. “There was more love than hate in the<br />

past. People tend to be more selfish now and you feel kind of vulnerable now.<br />

It doesn’t have to be that way.”

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