By Sheila McCoy
When Duane Herzog, 46, of Freeport died unexpectedly, Feb. 28, in a construction accident, he left a big hole in many hearts. He was the kind of man who could light up a room with his presence or make a complete stranger feel like he or she was the most important person in the world.
“He’d be deep in manure, but would still have that smile for us. He always smiled at everybody,” said David Van Heel, owner of Rainbow Acres Dairy in Swanville.
Besides the interest in people, Duane was passionate about construction. At Rainbow Acres Dairy alone, he completed about 20-25 different building projects.
“He was our farm’s best friend. If something needed to get done, he’d be here. He was a wonderful man,” Van Heel said.
Duane’s heart was truly for people. They came first, and it was a value he inspired many others to follow. He led by example, said Duane’s brother, Dave Herzog of Osakis.
“He was always willing to help anybody out. It didn’t matter who they were or what it was, whether it was to help them by work, financially or any other way. He never judged anyone,” said Dave. “He was great with people. If he came into a room full of strangers, he could talk to anybody about anything. He made everyone feel like they were a friend.”
One thing Duane’s brother, Gary Herzog of Swanville, recalls of his brother, is Duane had a talent for teaching.
“When Duane was talking, he was always teaching what he knew about the subject. He always had an opinion about everything. He just knew what was going on,” Gary said.
Dave said Duane was quite a task-oriented person. He focused on what was in front of him.
Since Duane had his own construction business, “New Age Builders,” Duane took care of his customers and was keen on providing the best service he could. He took pride in his work.
“Sometimes we’d drive down the road and he’d point out different buildings he had either built or repaired. He really understood the time and effort that had been put into it when he looked at a building,” said Duane’s brother, Alan Herzog of Freeport.
“It’s a great loss to the agricultural industry in Morrison, Todd and Stearns counties. He loved working with farmers and did a lot of construction for them. When he worked on projects, he always looked out for the farmer,” Van Heel said.
Duane’s brother, Dennis Herzog of Burtrum said, Duane always left a lasting impression on people.
“He never took anything in life for granted,” Dennis said.
Even though Duane wasn’t married, family was very important. He rarely missed out on any opportunities to let them know he cared.
Duane also loved sports and would always go to any games his nephews and nieces were playing.
“He always treated everybody with respect. It made his nieces and nephews feel good, too, when he came to their games,” said Duane’s sister, Janet Christen of Albany.
When he attended Upsala High School, he played basketball. After he graduated, he continued his education and played basketball for Mayville State University in North Dakota. Later he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
The love for the game began in his early years.
Duane’s sister Janel Marstein of Bowlus recalls the family meeting up in the hay shed to play basketball. Since the middle part was in concrete, they turned the shed into a full-sized basketball court.
“We’d have the neighbor kids over, too, and we’d play. He was one heck of a guy,” Janel said.
The Herzogs grew up on a dairy farm between Freeport and Upsala.
Duane’s sister Shirley Winkels of Avon said they often did chores together.
“We often talked about how he used to fall asleep, sitting on the five-gallon pail when we were milking the cows. He never fell off though, but always caught himself,” Winkels said.
Duane helped his brother, Fred Herzog of Randall, repair and build different projects at Fred’s farm.
“You can’t look around my farm and not see something that he worked on. He was just everything,” Fred said.