On Thursday, April 20, Jack Dugan wanted to let his Philadelphia friends know he was back in town from Chicago, where he and his wife had moved last summer, and was raring to go on some photography assignments.
“what’s up Philly? back to shoot me some weddins,” he posted online.
For two nights, Mr. Dugan slept on a couch at his friend’s home in Ambler. On Saturday morning, when his friend went to wake him, he discovered that Mr. Dugan, 32, had died in his sleep.
The Montgomery County Coroner’s Office labeled the cause of death as pending until the results of tests are known. His family said he had a history of heart trouble.
“Many people will say that Jack’s life was cut too short. That’s true,” said Kristen Forbriger, his wife of three years.
“But the other truth is that he was given a second life more than 10 years ago, when some amazing surgeons at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania saved his life, and every day since then has been an extra day we weren’t supposed to have him. The world, the powers that be, and Jack’s fighting spirit gave him that second chance.”
Starting in 2011, he owned and operated Jack Dugan Photography from his home in South Philadelphia and later Glenside, handling not only nuptials, but engagements and professional headshots.
In 2016, he was selected as an award winner for Wedisson, an international directory of wedding photographers.
“I used to love it when he would come home after weddings and show me his favorites,” his wife said. “He would remind me that they were raw. He took a lot of care to make sure each one he delivered to his clients was perfect.”
His friend Jason Laughlin, an Inquirer reporter, said the couple married in 2014 in a ceremony in New Hope. “It still feels very recent,” Laughlin said.
“He was wickedly funny, with a wry, quirky sense of humor,” Laughlin said. “He took a while to get to know, but was a warm, decent person once you did.”
Born in Elkins Park, Mr. Dugan graduated from South Kent School in South Kent, Conn., and in 2012 from Temple University with a bachelor’s degree in English.
Mr. Dugan was recruited by the prep school as an ice hockey goalie. He played hockey as an adult and followed the Philadelphia sports teams with a vengeance.
He cared about social issues, working with the ACLU and other progressive organizations, his wife said. But his fundamental values were love of work and family.
“He gave everything and would do anything for his family, especially me,” his wife said. “He recently moved across the country to support my career, even if it meant leaving his Philadelphia family. He taught me to take life more slowly, about what really mattered, and to live in each moment.”
His wife said Mr. Dugan had raw talent as a photographer, leavened with an ability to see the scene developing, so he knew when to click the shutter.
“He used to watch the play develop and anticipate when the shot on goal was coming,” his wife said. “That’s how he would watch a wedding party, or a band on stage, and know when to capture the right moment.”
A thinker and a doer, Mr. Dugan was not an avid talker. But he knew how to entertain friends and family with slightly inappropriate jokes, his wife said.
He doted on the couple’s female Chihuahua, Ping Pong Jackson.
Besides his wife, he is survived by his parents, John J. Jr. and Marilyn G.; a brother and sister; and nieces and nephews.
A visitation from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, and again from 10 to 11 a.m. Thursday, April 27, at the Wetzel & Son Funeral Home, 501 Easton Rd., Willow Grove, will be followed by an 11 a.m. funeral service Thursday at the Wetzel home. Burial is private.
Donations may be made to a scholarship in Mr. Dugan’s name at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School via https://youthbuildphilly.networkforgood.com/. Click on "Apply My Donation To” and select "Jack Dugan Memorial Scholarship."