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Obituaries » Duane B. Heeren

Duane B. Heeren

April 14, 1930 - January 9, 2022

Service Date: January 15, 2022

Funeral Home Memorial Services of Iowa

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Duane B. Heeren, age 91 years, died peacefully on January 9, 2022 at the Mill Pond care facility in Ankeny, Iowa. After suffering a major stroke on March 31, 2021, Duane made a valiant effort to recover and regain his balance, and use of his left arm and leg.

A private funeral (Due to Covid-19 precautions) will be held at 2:00 pm on January 15, 2022 at Memorial Services of Iowa. An interment will follow at the Slater City Cemetery. Services will be livestreamed at https://vimeo.com/664820168.

Duane was born on April 14, 1930 in Sheldon, O’Brien County Iowa; the son of Garrelt Benjamin “G.B.” and Marie Uden Heeren.  As an only child growing up in the 1930s, Duane had four “brothers”: cousins Orval Uden and Selmer Uden, along with pals (brothers) Myron and Glendon Meyer. Until about 1940 when the family moved from the farm to Matlock, Duane attended one room country school at Dale Township #9 in Lyon County where, as Duane would tell anyone, he was both the dumbest and smartest kid in his class.

During the 1940s, Duane worked on farms, pumped gas at the Matlock Cities Service station, raised chickens, mowed the Matlock Cemetery, helped with his dad’s feed grinding business, enjoyed swimming, fishing and hunting, participated in Boy Scouts, played town baseball (Matlock Bluebirds), shot pool at the Matlock pool hall, and honed his dance and roller skating skills at various venues (Lake Okoboji) in northwest Iowa. Duane rarely missed church and Sunday School.

When the weather turned cold and snowy, he had fun joining pond hockey games on frozen Otter Creek and ditch skiing behind his school buddies’ cars. Duane attended school in Matlock, where he was in charge of keeping the furnace stoked with coal, until becoming an Orab at the Sheldon High School, graduating in 1949.  He then attended Northwestern College in Orange City for two years, until transferring to and graduating from Central College in Pella.

After college, Duane accepted a position with the Iowa State Highway Commission Engineer’s Office in Red Oak, Iowa. He rented a room at the home of Pearl and John Dodd.  Despite his best efforts to focus on work, Duane found himself distracted by another tenant at the Dodd home — Elene Barker, a girl from Lenox, Iowa, who was working as the Home Economist at the Iowa State Extension Office for Montgomery County. Duane and Elene married on April 7, 1956, and recently celebrated 65 adventure-filled years of marriage.

Their first two sons, Brent and Scott, were born in Red Oak.  The family then moved to Manchester, Iowa where son Lance was born.  After a move to Marshalltown, Iowa; Duane and Elene returned to Red Oak, where daughter Julie was born.

A summer never passed without a week long “vacation” trip in the family station wagon packed to the headliner with tent gear, food, and luggage– a heavy metal car top carried sleeping bags and more camping gear. Any historic marker, state capital, or presidential library was a mandatory stop along the vacation route. The rest of the calendar was packed with holiday and family gatherings, church, school and sports activities, fairs, parades, and town celebrations. But the 4th of July was always circled in red  and celebrated with many “bangs,” as Duane’s favorite holiday of the year.

Duane lived a life of interest and curiosity — he read (or more accurately, “studied”) newspapers, books, and magazines…circulating all of his clippings among family members by mail.  Current events, history, sports, finance, politics, religion – it was all fair game if you started the conversation. Often Duane was “’in the background,” with a movie  or a “film” camera — taking posed and “action” photos/video at family gatherings.

He valued function over convenience, appearance, and latest advancement: black and white TV “worked” just as well as “color”; a party line saved telephone expense; why go “digital” when the film camera still works? Duane always shopped for a car or pickup with manual roll-up windows instead of electric.  The family home was not his “castle” … instead, home was a large-scale and never-ending tinkering project.  Any concrete or masonry project was in the planning stage for years (Mom had to approve first),  but ultimately the pour, finishing, and curing were done with military precision and in compliance with federal and state DOT highway standards.  Multiple runs of various leaf filters for gutters were installed to test which style had the best performance for the money.

When not working, Duane did find time to play. In his 40s, he retired from playing softball for the Red Oak Iowa DOT softball team (sponsored by the Hanky Panky Lounge). The word “bored” was considered profanity to Duane — a word not to be spoken. He somehow knew how to make kites fly higher, sleds slide faster, bicycles and tricycles run smoother –oil and WD40 were never in short supply.  Duane had plenty of toys via his children — canoes, mopeds, doll houses, electric trains, car racing sets, dolls which talked, walked, and wet; motorcycles, remote control airplanes, volleyball, badminton, croquet, unicycles –life was full of new adventures.

In his 50s, Duane took on the challenge of sailing — he studied the art of sailing, sailboats, and sailing terminology. The preparation did not prevent disasters, but he knew how to extricate himself and any unfortunate passengers without losing the vessel.

In 1992, Duane retired from the Iowa Department of Transportation after nearly 40 years of building bridges and highways across Iowa, mostly southwest Iowa.  His mother Marie was guest of honor at the retirement dinner. No one knows how many times Dad painted the house and deck on Forest Avenue after he retired.

In 2006, Duane and Elene moved to Huxley, Iowa, to be more centrally-located to their kids.  The new home was a tinkering paradise, complete with a work bench area in addition to a separate office and space for Duane’s “museum.”  Duane held off retiring from back-yard whiffle ball until he was in his 80s — a decision his chiropractor really appreciated. Until last year, Duane was confident he could out-ride, out-drive, out-shoot, out-dance, out- mow, and out-snow blow about anyone.

Duane embraced being “the grumpy old man,” “Scrooge- bah, humbug!”, and the family’s number one “fix-it guy” and mechanic. He spent his lifetime quietly striving to be a great son, husband, dad, grandpa, great grandpa, uncle, grand uncle, cousin, friend, neighbor, and co-worker, Cyclone fan, and faithful servant of the Lord. Duane was a member of the Slater United Methodist Church and Kiwanis Club. Duane’s family rejoices in the blessings provided by his life, and the certainty that Duane is telling the good Lord and all others in Heaven, “Come On, Let’s go! We aren’t getting anything done here!”

Left to mourn the earthly loss of Duane are his wife, Elene Barker Heeren; sons, Brent (Becky Cozad) Heeren of Toledo, Iowa, Scott (Jan Fort) of Grovertown, Indiana, Lance (Karen Volz) of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; daughter, Julie (Edward) Astarita of Slater, Iowa; ten grandchildren, Adam (Casandra Lang) Heeren of Valparaiso, Indiana, Riley (Jess Barth) Heeren of Plymouth, Indiana, Jonah Heeren of Kalispell, Montana, Amanda Heeren of Denver, Colorado, Alisha (Justin) Natvig of Prior Lake, Minnesota, Tyler Heeren of Marshalltown, Iowa, Tessa Heeren of Iowa City, Iowa, Molly Astarita of Waterloo, Iowa, Hannah Astarita of Omaha, Nebraska, and Oliva Astarita of Omaha, Nebraska; seven great grandchildren, Owen and Ruby Heeren, Avery and Brooks Heeren, and Stella, Oliver, and Hazel Natvig; cousin, Orval Uden (Donita Geersen); brothers-in law, Lonnie Barker of Lenox, and Bill Barker of Creston; sisters-in-law, Justine (Barker) Mendenhall of Prescott, Arizona, and Millie (Melvin) Barker of Lenox; and many nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces, cousins, dear friends, neighbors, and a few co-workers.

Duane was predeceased by his father, G.B. Heeren; mother, Marie Uden Heeren; father-in-law, Kenneth Barker; mother-in-law, Doris (Crowell) Barker; first cousin, Selmer Uden; brothers-in-law, Kevin Barker and Mendy Mendenhall; sister-in-law, Billie Jean (Brannon) Barker; niece, Sherri Barker; and a multitude of aunts and uncles, cousins, dear friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

In Lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in the name of Duane Heeren to: Slater United Methodist Church, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), or the Slater Community Club (in support of the Slater 4th of July Celebration and Fireworks that Duane so immensely enjoyed).

Duane’s family wishes to extend a special public thank you to the staff members at Huxley Ambulance, Ames Mary Greeley Hospital, The Bridges at Ankeny, Iowa Methodist Hospital, and Mill Pond of Ankeny, for the skilled and loving care, comfort, and great compassion provided to Duane following his stroke.

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