Duane B. Converse

Converse, Duane B. Duane Converse was born May 19, 1917 in Cresco, Iowa, the third son of Arthur Converse and Amy Brightbill. When he was about five years old, the family relocated to Devils Lake, North Dakota, finally settling in Carrington, where Duane shone as a track and field athlete, which helped him to obtain a scholarship to Jamestown College when his father died unexpectedly. At Jamestown he graduated with a degree in chemistry, after which he taught at various high schools in North Dakota, doubling as a coach in basketball and track, before being drafted into the army in 1941. After Pearl Harbor Lt. Converse was sent to China, where he was a rifle instructor to the Chinese Army, attached to Stillwell's Infantry. In May, 1944 his unit was sent to relieve Merrill's Marauders in the Battle of Myitkyina in Burma, where he lost an eye to a Japanese sniper. He was then sent to the Army hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where he had the honor of being personally thanked for his service by General Merrill. It was also in Springfield that he met up with an acquaintance from Jamestown, Lt. Jeanne LaGrave, who was a dietician on staff. They were married in September, 1945. Duane completed his masters in Education at the University of Minnesota on the GI Bill, and later a masters in chemistry at the University of New Hampshire. He and Jeanne and their growing family moved from Minnesota to Iowa and finally to Joliet, where he taught Chemistry at Joliet Junior College. They were active over the years in the American Field Service, hosting three foreign students and sending their son to Chile on the program. They enjoyed dancing, playing bridge and travel, spending several weeks every summer camping around the United States and Canada. Upon their retirement, he and Jeanne expanded their travels to include every continent except Antarctica. They were also active in the Audubon Society, and Duane was a docent at the Joliet Historical Society for several years. He was a member of Elks Lodge 296 and the First Presbyterian Church, where he was an Elder. He is survived by his four children, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He will be interred with Jeanne at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery. A memorial service is planned for the Spring.

Published in The Herald-News on Feb. 13, 2013