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Duane Heerdt

Dickinson County News - Staff Photo -

Sept. 1, 1932 - May 27, 2023

Duane Marlen Heerdt passed away on Saturday, May 27, 2023, at the age of 90 in Apache Junction, Arizona. He was born Sept. 1, 1932, in Burt to Leonard George Heerdt and Katherine “Marie” Madsen Heerdt. Marlen was the oldest of three sons, followed by Donald and Russell.  He grew up on a farm in Ringsted and attended school there, graduating at the age of 16.

He married JoAnn Justice in 1953. Marlen joined the military and served in Fort Belvoir, near Washington D.C., where his first son Leonard “Lenny” was born, followed by Lee and Marla.  Marlen was a long-haul semi-driver for many years. He lived in Ringsted, Klemme and Arnolds Park while his children were growing up. He and JoAnn divorced in 1985. He then moved “out west,” which was the fulfillment of a long-time dream.

Marlen had a passion for horses, reading and western culture. He worked on a variety of dude ranches and tourist attractions in Colorado, California, Arizona, South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. His work included leading horseback trail rides, driving horse-led wagons for tourists, manning the information booth at “Crazy Horse” in the Black Hills and acting as a security guard for a time. Marlen met the love of his life during this time and enjoyed 34 years of marriage to Judy Ann Rasmussen. Marlen and Judy worked as a team at all of the aforementioned places before settling down in Arizona. They enjoyed traveling to wonderful places, including two trips to Europe, the Kentucky Derby, a cruise through the Panama Canal, a 40-day trip through Alaska and more.

Left to cherish his memory are his wife Judy; his children, Leonard (Sandy); Lee (Deb); Marla (Dave); Audrey (Ken) and Brian; grandchildren, Matthew, Samantha, Casey, Ben, Maggie, Travis, Kelly, Amber, April, Nick and 19 great-grandchildren. Also, his brothers Donald (Darlene) and Russell (Andrea), many nephews, nieces and cousins. A headstone is in place at St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery in Ringsted, for those who wish to pay tribute. A family gathering will be held at a later date.

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