By JENELYN RUSSO     12/7/2016

Born in Cermna, Czechoslovakia in 1904, Fred V. Duda immigrated to the United States as a young boy with his family, settling in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

With little more than an eighth-grade education, the first born of 12 children made his way to Southern California in the 1920s where he worked in a Los Angeles restaurant and met and married Fountiene Lee of Iowa.

The couple moved back to Nebraska, living in Omaha, and Duda turned his hard work and determination into a nearly 40-year career as a food retail executive with the Jewel Tea Co. (now Jewel Companies).

During his retirement years, Duda resided in Anaheim and reconnected with his Catholic faith by attending Mass and participating in the seniors program at St. Justin Martyr parish.

“There wasn’t a night when I was growing up that I didn’t see my father at the end of his bed, beads in his hands, praying,” says Duda’s son, Fritz Duda, of his father.

While Duda battled a long illness that included several stays at UCI Medical Center, Fritz, founder and owner of the Fritz Duda Company, and his sister, Dr. Fountiene Prince, a retired clinical psychologist, were able to gain an understanding of their father’s wishes. Duda passed away in 1992 at the age of 87, but had a strong desire to continue to give back to the Church and to communities that supported him throughout his life.

In that spirit, Fritz Duda and Dr. Prince established scholarships in their father’s name, that benefit students at both Plattsmouth High School and St. Justin Martyr School as a way to honor Fred V. Duda’s commitment to hard work, his devotion to the Catholic faith, and his support of young people.

“He wanted to give back to his Catholic roots,” says Dr. Prince. “Despite his limited education, our father was able to have a very successful life through a strong work ethic. It sets a good example for young people to see his hard work.”

The Fred V. Duda Endowment Fund supports the students of St. Justin Martyr School through annual tuition assistance awards provided at the discretion of the school’s principal and according to the school’s financial aid policies. This endowment fund will allow the school to continue to retain students whose families demonstrate financial need.

Additionally, the Fred V. Duda Scholarship Fund for St. Justin Martyr awards need-based scholarships to graduates of St. Justin Martyr who are continuing their Catholic education at one of the seven high schools within the Diocese of Orange. Student applicants submit essays that are reviewed by a selection team and a scholarship of $2,500 is awarded to the recipients for each year they remain in a Catholic high school. There are currently eight Fred V. Duda Scholars attending Mater Dei, Rosary Academy, Servite, and Cornelia Connelly high schools.

Principal of St. Justin Martyr School, Janet Balsis, acknowledges the impact the scholarship opportunities have on the school’s families.

“There is a great feeling of hope when they go on to a Catholic high school, where there is excellence in every area,” says Balsis. “It opens doors for families that they otherwise wouldn’t consider.”

In August, the funds benefiting St. Justin Martyr were transferred to the Orange Catholic Foundation, a charitable corporation that manages endowment funds and other funds for the benefit of parishes, schools and other ministries within the Diocese of Orange.

The Duda family is committed to honoring their father’s memory by remaining involved with St. Justin Martyr School and its students through their support of these two funds. The lasting impact on the recipients continues to contribute to Duda’s legacy.

“High school has been wonderful, and it was made possible though this scholarship,” says Mater Dei High School senior, Aillin Arteaga. “After all, high school is an essential part in the formation of bright futures. Thank you to the Duda family for the endless opportunities.”

A message from the Orange Catholic Foundation:

An endowment is a permanent fund that is made up of charitable gifts and bequests that has been established at the Orange Catholic Foundation (OCF) to provide a continual source of income to support and benefit a specific parish, school, ministry, or other charitable organization within the Diocese of Orange. All donations are permanently invested by the OCF. Investment earnings are used to grow the fund and to provide the school, parish or program with ongoing annual financial support. For further information, please contact the Orange Catholic Foundation at (714) 282-3021 or visit our website at orangecatholicfoundation.org.