Fireman Fountain J. Cuff SanDamiano

My father, Joseph Cuff, was a San Francisco fire fighter who died in the line of duty in 1962.  I was 6 months old at the time, so I didn’t really know my father but through my mother, Theresa, and my brothers, I know that he was very good man. I’m Ed Cuff, the youngest of the 5 Cuff brothers. Among the many stories, one of my favorites is about our father and this fountain at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California, outside of San Francisco and Oakland. You see, our Dad volunteered to help build this beloved retreat center. I’m told he did much of the plumbing among other things. Even as a full-time fire fighter and father of 5 young boys, he made time to volunteer his plumbing and construction skills to help the good work of the Franciscans. After he died, the Franciscan Friars and volunteers dedicated the beautiful fountain to his memory. See the video and pictures including the dedication plaque placed on the fountain in 1962, the year I was born.

We are raising money to restore and rebuild the fountain for another 50 years of service to the thousands of retreat guests at San Damiano. This place is special and not just to us. We are a Catholic family and I know that thousands of people of many faith traditions have been blessed by being at San Damiano with the Franciscans - by the place, the fountain, the staff, and, I would say, the plumbing too. This fountain is a source of calming sound, refreshment for birds and fish, and it inspires reflective thought. For me, my brothers, our Mom, our family back east who love to visit here, and the always loyal fire fighter family, the fountain is about my father. We’d like to see this continue for another 50 years and more.

The money will be used to restore the beautiful courtyard fountain. We also plan to place $600-$800 per year in reserve just for the fountain to provide for the next 25+ years worth of inevitable maintenance needs such as the pumps and the cleaning supplies used by volunteers, lighting components, water treatment solution, and minor resealing treatments. The major restoration is forecast at $21,500 which means our total fundraising target is $39,000 -- but this should cover many decades.

Our timing is now but we are not in crisis. We’d like to see the restoration work start late this fall. The fountain is working, but 50+ years of loyal service has taken its toll to the point that if we don’t do a high-quality and complete restoration, permanent and major damage would result. We ask that you please help us now if you can.

This is important and wonderful. Our father and mother embodied the greatest generation. Our Dad was a World War II Coast Guard veteran from Boston’s Irish Catholic community. Our mother, the farmer’s daughter, was from Illinois and together they moved west to California. Before becoming a fire fighter, he was a skilled craftsman and tradesman, hence his ability to help the Friars build San Damiano. Brother Mo and Brother Joachim were family friends. All these years later, Fr. Evan, who now lives in the Friary at San Damiano remembers our father and mother as “loyal volunteers, happy volunteers” at St. Boniface, the parish still led by the Franciscans in the Tenderloin to this day. He says my Dad was “happy, you know, in an Irish way”.

Life is hard. My mother managed to raise 5 boys as a single mom in San Francisco of the tulmultuous 60's and 70's. She never considered remarrying. If I could ask him, I think my father would be so grateful to my mother for the way she raised us without him. She coached sports, was on the PTA, was a den Mother, and always helped at our schools. I'm also proud to point out that two of my brothers became San Francisco firefighters like our father.

San Damiano Retreat Center, the Friars, and this fountain were blessings to us all. Help us make the fountain at San Damiano sparkle for another 50 years. The inspiration of our father and mother will gently touch thousands who visit San Damiano for renewal in their lives. The fountain at San Damiano is a special connection to my father for me and my brothers.  Pitch-in if you can. Thank you.

Large donations can also be sent directly to San Damiano,
Joseph B. Cuff Fire Fighter Fountain
710 Highland Drive, Danville, CA 94526

Thank you very much.


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  • Arlen Horst 
    • $100 (Offline)
    • 40 mos
  • Ken Mahon 
    • $100 
    • 41 mos
  • San Damiano Auction Donors 
    • $1,975 (Offline)
    • 43 mos
  • Chris Cunnie 
    • $250 
    • 43 mos
  • Michael McEvoy 
    • $150 
    • 43 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Peter Wise 
Danville, CA
Barbara Bucher 
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