I’ve had the privilege of knowing my Veterans Spotlight guest this week for almost all my life; he used to cut my hair as a child. Adrian (Andy) Dufresne has been a mainstay in the Falmouth community for 60-plus years. Mr. Dufresne grew up in Glenwood Place in Falmouth. His father worked the swing shift in a weaving mill in the north end of New Bedford, and also as a barber. As a youngster Mr. Dufresne would shine shoes there, and remembers taking the train into Falmouth for 10 cents. He attended St. Joseph’s Dual Language School in New Bedford and went to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, where he excelled in football (All-Bristol County, 1947) and as a weightlifter.
He quit school and joined the US Navy on May 20, 1948. He was sent to Great Lakes, Illinois, for nine weeks of boot camp. Seaman Dufresne initially qualified for submarine school but, after a clerical error, was sent off to combat crew on the cruiser USS St. Paul (CA-73) in the western Pacific Fleet and was subsequently sent to China. From 1948 to 1949 he did two tours of four and 10 months, respectively, patrolling from Tgintao to Singapore, in addition to the Philippines and Borneo.
When asked about being away from home during the holidays, Seaman Dufresne shrugged in old-school fashion and said, “You learn to live with it.” He also boxed while in the Navy and already had developed “pretty good self-esteem” through the sports he played in high school. While on patrol in the Pacific his ship stopped in Hawaii, where his half-brother Leo was a chief petty officer at the receiving station in Pearl Harbor. “On the mainland, there were only two hotels and lots of pineapple plantations,” he remembered.
Seaman Dufresne served as one of six barbers on his ship, which also had tailors and cobblers. His duties also included four hours in the powder magazine and eight doing whatever he was assigned to do. Seaman Dufresne also noted that in September 1950 his ship was involved in vicious shore bombardment 24 hours a day. “We fired a total of 182,000 rounds. No other ship came close. There was quite a bit of noise,” he recalled.
He also remembered, sadly, losing eight men from his ship in battle; the men had been sent ashore. “Another tragedy occurred when we lost 30 men in a gun accident. I was too young to realize the consequences,” he said.
The entertainment at sea was mainly just movies because his ship was constantly on the move. “We had nothing when we were in the war zone,” he said. Seaman Dufresne also remembered the ship’s drill whenever a shell came close or hit his vessel: “They sounded general quarters and everybody, didn’t matter where you were or how you were dressed, had to be full manned and ready in less than six minutes. We had 1,300 men on board.”
Seaman Dufresne did two tours of duty—one in wartime and the other in peace—and was discharged in 1952, right before his 21st birthday.
Seaman Dufresne, over the years, has been steadfast in his passion for supporting veterans and their causes. This stems from a bad situation he experienced due to a lack of administrative foresight relating to the GI Bill when he was discharged. Still feisty as a tiger, he has carried that ill feeling with him for years.
He has enjoyed a considerable amount of success in real estate over the years based upon one simple fact: “I foresaw the growth in Teaticket and East Falmouth.”
He has been married to his lovely wife, Alice, for 67 years and this month will celebrate his 88th birthday.
Seaman Andy Dufresne, thank you for your service to our great country.