What constitutes a life well lived?……Integrity? Compassion? Work ethic? At times it can be difficult to develop these attributes. Our community’s senior citizens have volumes of advice and knowledge to offer, as long as we take time to listen. I have taken the opportunity to listen to Duane Slaughter share his life story, and am grateful for the time spent with him.
Duane was born March 29, 1928 near Pender, Nebraska. “On the farm,” as he puts it. Duane attended a country school until eighth grade and went on to graduate from Pender High School in 1945. “I remember coming into school on a Monday my freshman year, and the principal made an announcement for everyone to report for an assembly.” As Duane straightens in his chair, he adds, “The principal had a radio on the stage, and he told everyone that we were about to hear President Roosevelt ask Congress to declare war. Once the radio program was over, the principal stood on the stage and shook his finger at us. He said, ‘You will never forget this day for as long as you live.’ I haven’t forgotten and I never will.”
Following graduation, Duane farmed and married the love of his life, Dorthy Schroeder. The couple moved to Lyons in 1969. “We’ve been married for 68 years,” Dorthy comments from across the room. Duane worked for a local seed and feed store for many years before retiring. He was also very involved with civic duty in Lyons, as he served on the Lyons City Council for 16 years, and then moved on to assume the role of Mayor for eight years. Duane comments, “I consider myself to be very fortunate. As Mayor of Lyons, I was able to partake in the groundbreaking of four new projects in town. These included the new water tower, new library, the Center for Rural Affairs building, and Central Valley Ag. How often do mayors in small towns get to do that?”
Duane has been very devoted to his family throughout the years. “We rarely missed a Friday night football game when the kids were in school,” Duane includes. Even though their six children have since grown up, Duane and Dorthy enjoy keeping up with the happenings of their 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. When Duane is not working on projects or in his large garden, he can be found attending Husker football games with his son Gary, also of Lyons. He adds, “We have been going to home games for 28 years now.”
As I pack up my notepad and camera, Duane makes sure to hand me a cantaloupe fresh from his garden. He then proceeds to thank me for spending a couple of hours with him, and asks me to tell my parents that he says, “Hello!” As I walk out the door and get into my pickup, I begin to contemplate and appreciate a new perspective on life. A perspective through the eyes of someone from another generation. Duane’s perspective.