Duane Bruening

Duane Kenneth Bruening died peacefully at Barthell O.E.S Home in Decorah November 3 2019, at the age of 90. A Mass of Christian Burial was held Friday, November 8 at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Decorah with Rev. Donald Hertges and Rev. Msgr. Edward Lechtenberg officiating. Burial was in St. Benedict Catholic Cemetery in Decorah with Military Honors.

Duane was born September 15, 1929 in Shenandoah to Leo and Theresa (Baumler) Bruening. The family traveled and lived in several states before settling in Decorah. Duane graduated from Decorah High School in 1947 and went on to Iowa State University to study Electrical Engineering; after a year he transferred to Loras College to study Accounting & Economics, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Science degree.

While at Loras, Duane met Eileen Marie Murphy, the love of his life, at a college mixer, where they discovered they shared the same birthday, which remains a novelty and family anecdote. They were married 1 December, 1951.

Upon graduating, Duane left for his Marine Corps basic training at Paris Island, NC and on to Officer Candidates School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. He was assigned as a Top-Secret nuclear technician. He advanced to the rank of Captain and remained in the United States Reserves until after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Professionally, Duane joined his father, Leo, in 1954 to build the family business, Bruening Rock Products (BRP) Inc. Throughout the next two decades, Duane advanced BRP to become the recognized and leading corporation it is today. Industry and community leaders encouraged Duane to further his vision of taking BRP from a mom & pop to a regional entity. With his sons, Greg and Keith, the company grew, now four generations. This was a source of pride for Duane, as it was a true representation of the legacy of his life’s motto.

He lived by the motto of “Work, Family, Country, God”…. in that order, something that Duane continuously incorporated throughout his life. Eileen instilled a strong sense of community and an appreciation for the arts, and they both drove the importance of education and strength in family. He complemented Eileen by further instilling a strong work ethic, a respect for country, and the importance of generosity - not only to family - but to the community.

Duane was elected and served on the board of trustees of Luther College, Northeast Iowa Community College and Loras College. Duane advocated for all advanced education, not only as a whole, but how the path of pursing education can propel an individual to surpass their expectations and even help to define them.

Additionally, Duane was involved with the Associated General Contractors, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996; Iowa Limestone Producers Association; Decorah Development; Oneota Golf and Country Club; Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ; and a Lifelong member of Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He was a stalwart Republican, though he believed in voting for the man and not the party.

Duane and Eileen were committed patrons to the Norwegian American Museum, Vesterheim, believing it to be a culture and educational institution for the community.

Duane’s philanthropic commitments included the Allamakee and Winneshiek County Fairs, notably as an enthusiastic presence during the livestock auctions; the Mayo Clinic Foundation; numerous scholarship awards to national and local institutions; The Wounded Warrior project and affiliated Marine Crop charities for active and veteran groups.

One of Duane’s greatest pleasures was to anonymously surprise people with something special and sometimes life changing. Duane was a loyal and steadfast friend, standing by - no matter the circumstance, supporting when needed, without judgment.

He is much loved by his children, grand and great-grandchildren, to whom he devoted endless time organizing “Boys & Girls” days, acting as the “Official Guardian” of the Halloween candy and the “Master Cookie Taste Tester”. As the holidays approached, Duane’s military background came into play as he strategized with his grandchildren on the best ways to ‘trap’ Santa and hope for the arrival of his long overdue… green motorcycle with a sidecar. Duane received immense joy shopping for his loved ones, always finding that unique and ultimately perfect “something”. He lived life to the fullest, embracing all celebrations.

Duane was a remarkable storyteller and took pleasure in sharing Ole and Lena jokes with his Tusk Club “fellows”. Many will remember him for his “lucky” $2 bills.

Duane is survived by his children: Helen Barbier (Guy) of Rougemont, Switzerland, Frederick ‘Fritz’ (Tammy) of Grand Blanc, MI, Gregory ‘Greg’ (Karen) of Decorah, Mary Rayburn (Philip Lee) of Hunt Valley, MD, Keith (Amy) of Decorah and Elizabeth Bruening of Polk City; his grandchildren: Jocelyn (Joey) Clarine, Ashely Eileen Gjorcevski, Guy-Thomas Barbier, Tyler, Camille Barbier, Henri Barbier, Theresa (Jameson) Bamrick, Jacob, Amanda, Gabrielle Cowie, Claudia Cowie, Michael, Nathaniel Cowie, Katherine, Rebecca and August Cowie; his great-grandchildren: Alayna, Bennett, Fiona Clarine and Aurora Eileen Bamrick; one sister: Loma Carlson; and two sisters-in-law: Alvina Murphy and Betty Murphy.

Duane was preceded in death by his wife, Eileen; his sons, Steven and Michael; his parents Leo and Theresa (Baumler) Bruening; his sister, Beverly (Ruen), and her husband, Don White; his brother, Lowell (Buzz), and his wife, Sonja; his granddaughter, Natalie Bruening; his brothers-in-law, Virgil and Louis Murphy, and Fritz Carlson; and his sons-in-law, Guy Barbier and Robert Cowie.

Memorials may be given to The Norwegian American Museum, Vesterheim, 520 West Water Street, Decorah, IA, 52101 and B.P.O.E. (Elks), 105 River Street, Decorah, IA 52101.

Duane’s children would like to thank family and friends for the friendship and support throughout this time. Thank you also to all of Duane’s nursing and staff at the Barthell Eastern Star for all their efforts, care, dedication and compassion. A special thank you to Deborah Bishop for her professionalism, kind-hearted care and friendship.

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