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While in college at Oregon State University from 1966-1971, I had the good fortune to live with about 75 guys in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon house which was about 1/2 mile from campus. The popularity of the Greek system on US campuses, ebbs and flows, but at that time, fraternities and sororities were strong.
Not only were they an opportunity for enhanced social interaction, but one which imparted adherence to academic discipline – study tables for freshman (Rooks) from 7 to 10 each weeknight – and a routine which helped one succeed in college life initially.
For example, Rooks also got up each weekday morning and did chores at 6:30 AM. These ranged from sanitizing the communal bathrooms to vacuuming and cleaning the house. They also served as waiters and kitchen help each weekday night at dinner.
I established lifetime friendships during those years.. Three of my fraternity brothers were the Barton boys from Baker, Oregon. Duane – class of ’69, Gary (71) and Ronnie (73). They were from a great Eastern Oregon family.
All those who knew him, mourned Duane’s passing from Alzheimer’s on May 14, 2020 at the age of 72. Because of COVID, his Celebration-of-Life was postponed until this August. As stated in his obituary:
“His love for life, Faith in Christ and heart for people was ever present. He was never too busy to stop and encourage others. His impact has left an imprint on our hearts forever; he will be deeply missed.”
Periodically in this blog, I name a Beerchaser-of-the-Quarter (BOQ). During my career and in retirement, I have met (or read about) many fascinating and wonderful people with compelling stories and notable exploits and accomplishments. Those I’ve featured may or may not have anything to do with bars or beer. I’ve known most of them personally.
This disparate group comprises academicians, athletes, authors, clerics, consultants, developers, environmentalists, friends/family, media personalities, military veterans, musicians…..well you get the idea.
The late Duane Barton is my newest BOQ and joins two of his former Beaver football teammates who’ve received that “honor” – Craig (The Dude) Hanneman (8/12) and Billy (Rabbit) Main (5/20) in addition to the legendary 1967 Oregon State Giant Killer Football Team as an entity. (5/18). (To read these posts, click on the links above.)
The SAE’s were involved on campus, to say the least. We had athletes from all sports (ten were members of the Giant Killer Team), student leaders, ROTC guys from the three military branches, honor students and musicians, etc. – a talented group of individuals.
I suggest, however, that Duane Barton was the epitome of the well-rounded college student. Now you may laugh at the analogy, but during his life, he could be considered a contemporary Renaissance Man! Let’s define that term:
“Embodying a basic tenet of Renaissance humanism that humans are limitless in their capacity for development, the concept led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible.
This is expressed in the term Renaissance man, often applied to the gifted people of that age who sought to develop their abilities in all areas of accomplishment: intellectual, artistic, social, physical, and spiritual.” (Wikipedia)
Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin would fit in this category. Now comparing Thumper Barton to Ben Franklin may seem like a stretch. Duane didn’t sign the Declaration of Independence, isn’t credited with any inventions such as bifocals or the lightning rod, didn’t publish a newspaper, wasn’t a freemason nor did he serve as a University President……
Ben Franklin did not play the accordion, guitar and piano, nor letter in football, basketball and baseball in high school and go on to be a skilled college football running back who also punched holes in defensive lines for Earthquake Bill Enyart.
Ben didn’t meet his future wife while coaching Powder Puff Football (although Franklin did sport a pretty cool powdered wig at times).
The Founding Father didn’t have a wonderful tenor voice which garnered a lead in the Baker High School production of Oklahoma and finally, Franklin, never landed a Navy fighter jet on an aircraft carrier at night in rough seas off Japan or serve as an instructor for other Navy aviators.
Both of them were recognized for their superb humor – Franklin mixed cynicism with optimism and stay tuned below for examples of Duane’s mirth.. The bottom line is that both were remarkable men who made significant contributions in a wide variety of pursuits, were admired both for their achievements and relationships with others and left a lasting legacy.
A Note on the Accordion!
One of the great stories his brother, Gary, told at the Celebration was Duane learning to play a wicked version of “Lady of Spain” Perhaps, he became fascinated with this tune while watching the Lawrence Welk Show (It was the theme song of Myron Floren, the accordionist on the show), but everyone there loved the story.
One has to ask, “Did Duane learn to play the accordion to impress the girls at Baker Union High or for the purpose of culturally enhancing his own life (although maybe not those around him…..)?” Fortunately, he abandoned this hobby in college or at least only resumed it on academic breaks at home.
Faith and Family
Duane’s faith in Christ was a critical part of his value system as was his family. Jan and Duane were married for fifty years and had two beautiful daughters (Kylee and Jamie) who I had the privilege of meeting at the Celebration.
As might be expected, both inherited their parents’ athletic abilities and were elite soccer players. Kylee went to University if Portland on a full scholarship. She played for the U16 and U 20 National Teams Jamie went to Willamette University and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at Willamette in 2010.
Both young women have successful careers – Kylee has worked at Nike for seventeen years and is a Global Strategic Product Management Leader, while Jamie is a Vice Principal for an international school. After Kylee entered college, Jan had a successful 17-year career as a realtor with Windemere.
Jan asked me to say a few words at the Celebration of Life. They are inserted below with some pictures that help convey Duane’s personality and amazing life experience:
“I was privileged to know Duane through both the SAE house and the Navy ROTC program. Duane and his good friend and football teammate, Billy Main were both in NROTC – one year ahead of me.
Shortly after Duane passed away, I talked on the phone with Billy about the 1967 OSU Giant Killer Team. We both reminisced about Thumper – Duane’s nickname. Coincidentally, Billy’s nickname was “Rabbit.”
Here are a few of Billy’s comments because they are memorable
Duane Barton was the back-up fullback to Bill Enyart in 1967 and 1968. He knew Buff well – they were roommates when the team traveled. Thumper was physically very different:
Enyart was 6 feet 4 inches – 235 pounds —- Duane was 5 feet 8 inches – 210 pounds.
Duane was one of the great players from eastern Oregon that were part of that Giant Killer team. He was a skilled and proficient runner and blocker — the purest essence of the spirit and ethos of those teams…Had Buff gotten injured, we would lose very little. He was loved and respected by all of his teammates.”
Let’s talk about Naval Aviation and the Airlines
Being selected for Naval Aviation was a real honor for a midshipman. Both Duane and Billy learned to fly in college at the Corvallis airport and went to flight school at Pensacola after commissioning. Rabbit reminisced and said:
“We were also in the Navy summer camps in LA and Pensacola. We were together on Aircraft Carriers: the USS Randolph and USS Lexington.
During that summer in Pensacola and when we had a few days leave, Thumper had a bright idea. He suggested that we jump a freight train and just see where it was going. Duane always pushed to try something new. (Fortunately, Billy talked him out of this plan).
Duane was a skilled pilot but Thumper had an outrageous sense of humor. He was constantly pinching your ass when you weren’t looking – then he would laugh like hell.”
After commissioning and flight school in 1969, he served in the Vietnam War as a Navy pilot. Flying planes was always a dream of his, so he was then thrilled to continue that work as a commercial pilot for Continental.
In 1985 he began a career with Alaska Airlines, which lasted until his final flight in June of 2007; he had a respected and distinguished career. He was also very involved with Airline Pilots’ Association International for 30 years.
And at the SAE house, the Barton boys were active and appreciated. Not only were they standout athletes on our intramural teams, but also talented vocalists—-although Duane had a much better voice than Gary…..
The SAE’s won the men’s competition in OSU Interfraternity Sing in 1968 and placed second in 1967. It was a big event on campus every year and the Bartons were a key factor in the both victories (along with our white slacks……).
Duane and Gary are standing next to each other in the lower right. (Thebeerchaser is upper row third from left and Danny Riley – stay tuned below – is fifth from the left in the upper row).
Given my propensity to save (hoard) items, I still have the vinyl LP’s from both years and you can hear our winning number “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor” (Rather timely wouldn’t you think….) and hear the Bartons’ dulcet tones. (If there is not an arrow on the photo below, click on it to play the video).
As I knew he would, Billy Main flew up for the Celebration of Life in Portland and ten of Thumper’s fraternity brothers were there as well – obviously all still retained their youthful looks and demeanors.
Finally, let’s talk about nicknames.
Some of you, are probably asking about the derivation of the moniker, “Thumper.” Gary offered this explanation:
“The Thumper nickname came from the Disney movie Bambi. There was a cute little cottontail named Thumper living in Bambi’s forest. Among the burly football jocks at OSU, Duane was like their Thumper – both in size and perhaps even more so in personality.
That said, he gave one a memorable ‘thump’ when he hit you on the football field….”
At the SAE house almost everyone had a nickname. You know Duane’s. Gary Barton was known as “Golden Boy” – I think he got that name from his hair color although Gary always thought it was because of his accomplishments. But that’s a story for another time……
There was also “Foghead,” “The Dude,” “Cheater,” “Buns” and some that can’t be repeated in mixed company. My nickname was “Dirt” and when my younger brother pledged the house several years later, he became known as “Dust.” Those nicknames – in many cases – stuck for the rest of one’s life. I’ll close with an example:
Scene — Portland International Airport (PDX)
In 2007, my law firm was having merger discussions with a Seattle firm. I was flying to Seattle each week and one weekday morning I was seated in the Alaska Airlines waiting area for my 6:30 AM flight.
I looked at the couch across from me about four seats down and saw a pilot in his uniform waiting to catch a hop to Seattle. I was pretty sure that it was Duane; however, I hadn’t seen him in more than 20 years. His hair was white and he had a mustache.
Taking a cautious approach I said in a very low voice, “Thumper?” Well, the lady sitting next to me was horrified…..But Duane turned abruptly towards me, got a big grin and said enthusiastically:
We had a great conversation.
The Celebration was a wonderful and healing time for reminiscing and I enjoyed meeting Jan, Kylee and Jamie. And it was a real treat seeing Gary again and hearing his heartfelt and eloquent tribute to Duane.
A Naval Aviation Family
And speaking of tributes, I want to close with recognizing another SAE who was also in NROTC and my best friend in college.
Dan (Foghead) Riley also took his commission in Naval Aviation and was a legacy member of an outstanding family of Navy pilots – Mike (’59), Dave (’63), Steve (’69) and then Danny (’71). All were NROTC at OSU except Dave who was a US Naval Academy grad. Dan, like Duane Barton, left us too soon and passed away from a long illness in 1997.
It’s ironic and funny how Dan got his nickname at the SAE house in light of the fact that he subsequently landed many times on aircraft carriers – obviously this task takes a clear head!
At the SAE house, there was a week-long initiation to become a member- usually in the spring of the sophomore year, if one made the required GPA. “Hell Week” did not involve any physical hazing but there was a lot of good-natured psychological grief for the prospective members and “assignments” – some of which were essentially impossible to carry out, but for which there was grief it not accomplished.
One of mine which still brings a laugh – I was supposed to surreptitiously place a unit of hay on the study room desk of the House President, Ronnie “Root Beer” (he didn’t drink) Holloway. I talked a kid in the neighborhood of the SAE house to let me borrow his Radio Flyer wagon.
I took it to the OSU sheep barns (we were an aggie school…) – about 3/4 mile from the house and told one of the workers that I was doing a science project and needed a unit of hay which I would pay for. He laughed and gave it to me.
I pulled the wagon and hay through the back streets to return to the house and waited until everyone was at dinner and Dan Riley helped me get it up to the second floor on the desk. Root Beer was astonished when he came in.
The “birth” of Fog Head – On the first night of Hell Week, they lined us up single file at attention in the hall (about fifteen of us) after dinner. The upperclassmen were all puffing on cigars and the smoke was so thick, it probably could have held up the ceiling. We were all nervous and not wanting to screw up as they lectured us about how we didn’t live up to SAE standards, were flakes, etc.
One senior – a big guy who played football came up, puffed his cigar and stuck his head in Dan’s face and said, “Riley, this probably doesn’t mean anything to you does it?” With all the yelling Dan didn’t hear him so figuring he had a 50/50 chance to be correct, he replied “No Sir!”
All the upperclassmen then laughed uproariously and one of them yelled, “Come on, Riley. Get your head out of the fog!”
Perhaps that night in 1967, in some small way, prepared Dan for a scenario like that below that he may have faced on one of his Navy air patrols! #7
I’ll finish with this tribute to the Navy aviators mentioned above – Duane, Billy, Danny, Steve, Mike and Dave. The song is by the OSU Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity – winners of the 1967 OSU Interfraternity Council Sing. #8 (If there is not an arrow on the photo below, click on it to play the video).
External Photo Attribution
#1. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Benjamin_Franklin_1767.jpg) This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer. Source: The White House Historical Association.
#2. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_convertor_free-bass_piano-accordion_and_a_Russian_bayan.jpg) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: Henry Doktorski 30 September 2008.
#3. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USS_Lexington_(CV-2)_leaving_San_Diego_on_14_October_1941_(80-G-416362).jpg) This file is a work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/en:Naval_History_and_Heritage_Command
#4. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Thumper_Bambi_Screenshot.png) This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1927 and 1963, and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed. Source: The Walt Disney Company 1942.
#5. Radio Flyer Wagon – https://www.amazon.com/Radio-Flyer-Classic-Red-Wagon/dp/B00000IS6G/ref)
#6. Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hatzir_in_dalton(2).JPG) Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Author: קרלוס הגדול4 May 2013.
#7. Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons (http://File:US Navy 101105-N-5684M-121) The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) maneuvers through fog in the Pacific Ocean.jpg – A work of a sailor or employee of the U.S. Navy, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, it is in the public domain in the United States. 5 November 2010.