Duane E. Donley, 98 of Perham, MN, died Thursday, March 16, 2023 at Hadley House Assisted Living Center in Perham.
Duane Donley was born on May 23, 1924 in Campbell, MN. With the death of his father during the Depression in 1934 there were many hardships for his mother and ten siblings, but they always had a positive outlook on life and food on the table. Working his way through high school Duane graduated in 1942 from Perham MN High School and enlisted in the Army. The Army immediately saw the value he could contribute as an engineer after the war and he was given the opportunity to study in the Army Special Training Program at Western Maryland University. A year later, because of heavy military activity in the European Theater, Private First Class Donley, Company D 335th Infantry Regiment was deployed to the European front as a Radio man in the 84th Infantry Division for the duration of WWII. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and the Last Battle and was discharged on February 16, 1946 with honors including the Combat Infantry Badge, Expert Rifle Badge, European, African, Middle Eastern Theater Service Metal and the Bronze Star.
After returning to the United States Duane eventually was able to buy a dairy farm in 1951 in Richville, MN and along with his wife Marion and six children he farmed that land for over 67 years, in addition to owning and managing Donley’s Sunrise Resort on Dead Lake for 25 years. For over 14 years Duane participated in the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) and entered the TIP (Transition Incentives Program) partnering with a young farmer, Joe Werner. Duane was always known as an innovative farmer and in the 1960’s he received the “Conservation Farmer of the Year” award for best farming practices including being one of the first farmers to strip crop his land for optimal soil management. When Duane purchased his farm only one-third of the land was cleared for crops. Duane cleared most of the land but also through the years planted over 10,000 trees as wind breaks and habitat for wildlife. Also, in the 1970’s Duane was asked to be on Governor Rudy Perpich’s Governor’s Aesthetic Environment Committee which he was proud to serve on. On Duane’s 95th birthday he was honored by having a dedicated United States flag fly over the US Capitol, along with commendations from Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Collin Peterson, a long-time friend.
Being a “good neighbor” was always important to Duane which led him to be active in his community. He served on the Dead Lake Township Board for 27 years, on the Perham Cooperative Creamery Board for 25 years, the Zion Amor Lutheran Church Board for 18 years, the School District 256 Board for 16 years and the Land O’Lakes District Board for 15 years. He was a lifetime member of the VFW and American Legion.
Duane considered himself a proud patriot and through the years told many stories of his war experiences that showed the spirit, bravery and valor of the American soldier. He returned to Europe several times through the years and met Europeans he fought with and against who became lifelong friends. He was an outstanding public citizen and a fantastic role model and father to his six children. He was married to Marion his “partner in life” for 72 years and 364 days.
Duane is survived by his wife, Marion; son, David (Beth) Donley of Ottertail; daughters, Janice (Steve Johannesen) Donley of Scottsdale, AZ, Julie Donley of Perham, Diane Donley of Ottertail, Pam Donley of Richville, and Cindy (Jeff) Dewar of Perham; nine grandchildren, Chris Donley, Andy Hanson, Sarah Pearson, Kate Nelson, Ali Schmitz, David Lund, Eve Mann, Adam Donley and Olivia Von Behren; fifteen great grandchildren, Kaitlyn, Rayden, Aiden, Piper, Jackson, Chase, Libby, Milo, Harvey, Mabel, Wesley, Noah, Thea, Devin and Christina; two brothers-in-law, Larry Torgerson and Jim Torgerson, and many nieces and nephews.
Preceding him in death were his parents; brothers, Clarence, Melvin (Millie), Gerald (Kathy), and sisters Fern (Bun) Barry, Ruth (Ed) Umland, Lois (Buster) Sherman, Lucillle (Clifford) Zahnow, Arlys (Jake) Jacobson, Ione (Forrest) Dahl, and Dory (Delores) Johnson.
He also leaves behind other special family members and friends, Danny Barry and his wife Cheryl whose frequent visits he enjoyed throughout his life; staff at Hadley House who supported and cared for him; his Apache Junction, AZ “winter family and friends” who enjoyed happy hours together that started earlier every year; and finally his deer hunter friends who always called him The General!
In lieu of flowers memorials are preferred to God’s Acres located at Zion Lutheran Church of Amor located at 36051 Co Hwy 74, Battle Lake, MN 56515
Memorial service: 11:00 a.m. Friday, July 14, 2023 at Zion Lutheran Church of Amor, with visitation one-hour prior to the service at the church.
Clergy: Reverend Doug Staave
Interment: Oakwood Cemetery, rural Richville, MN
Arrangements provided by Olson Funeral Home in Fergus Falls.
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