One donor's story: Harley John Duncan

  • Minneapolis
  • Tissue , Eyes
  • Deceased Donor: 2014

Harley John Duncan was my brother.  He lived the values of the institutions that shaped him on his journey to adulthood.  These were his family–of origin and extended; Catholic grade schools in Minnesota, Texas, and California; the Catholic college preparatory high school–De LaSalle–administered by the Christian Brothers; the Boy Scouts of America; the US Marine Corps; and the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a double major in Journalism and Marketing.

Harley’s mother was born and raised in Richmond, Minnesota and his father in Gravett, Arkansas.  They met in California, married in Texas, and Harley was born in St. Cloud.  He had Irish eyes described by one of his aunts as “bedroom eyes” when he was but a few weeks old.  Always deeply in touch with the child within, Harley often surprised with his amusing take on a comment, a person, a situation.

From his parents, Harley received a love of family gatherings, of the English language and conversation (which he often dominated) and a penchant for the “pretty” which grew stronger as his life progressed.  He was a life-long student, loved to debate issues, and was a “news junkie” who read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Star Tribune online most days.   He worked diligently to acquire the merit badges necessary to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout attained by only five percent of Scouts.  He was loyal to friends and family, enjoying several life-long friendships and personal happiness in relationships including one long-term marriage.  He valued a conservative approach to all things financial and achieved a Credit Sore of well over 800 points.  His penchant for emergency preparedness was something he learned as a Scout and  practiced his entire life.  He loved the outdoors:  fished, hunted, boated, and biked through the years.  He could build a fire that would burn long into a summer’s night.  He took a photography class at the U and was forever hooked–family, friends, and nature his subjects of choice but every now and again the quirky photo (like a raccoon with rigor mortis) that was so indicative of the playfulness just below the surface.   He loved his two dogs:  Jagmar, a Brittany Spaniel he bought when he was in college and who broke Harley’s heart when he had to take her in to be put down.  Henri is a Bichon-Frisse/poodle mix who became his “ears” as Harley became increasingly hard of hearing in his last years.  He gardened and cooked but only so that he could eat well.  A juicy, ripe tomato on a summer’s afternoon was a slice of heaven.

He had an eclectic taste in music, insisted everyone put Seafoam in their gas tank, loved marigolds using them as a border in his garden.  Blueberries were a breakfast favorite as was one good cup of coffee, beans freshly ground, of course.  He remembered his siblings’ birthdays every year, developed a friendship with his mother that slowly faded as her dementia worsened.   For nearly all the years of his adult life, he cooked a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to enjoy after the holiday.  Fruitcake was a December staple as was the fresh, aromatic Christmas tree.  He kept the poinsettias from Christmas and enjoyed them outside in the summertime.

Harley was an independent thinker, a fabulous conversationalist, an extremely perceptive man and we will miss him all the days of our lives.

Harley John Duncan