Duane Gene Elness, 71, Cavalier, formerly of Sterling, died peacefully September 17, 2023, in Mandan, ND.
Private family interment has taken place.
Duane was born in Bismarck on August 4, 1952, just a few minutes after his identical twin brother, Dwight Dean, to Curtis and Doris (Tompt) Elness. He was raised on the family's farm north of Sterling, where he attended grade school. He graduated from Bismarck Senior High in 1970, and graduated summa cum laude, with a B.A. in English from U.N.D. in 1974. He was also inducted into the academic society, Phi Beta Kappa. In 1977 he returned to U.N.D. and earned a degree of J.D. in 1980. He practiced law in Cavalier, N.D. from 1980 to 1998.
Duane then took a job at a factory and enjoyed working with the people there. His last - and favorite - job was with the soil conservation district in Park River, working as a technician designing and helping plant windbreaks and shelterbelts. He retired in 2018.
Trees were at the top of his many interests. In 1993 he purchased a quarter of mostly wooded land near Cavalier and lived in a cottage that he built at the edge of those woods. He planted and successfully grew a number of unusual shrubs and trees, including hickories, chestnuts and other nut trees in his yard. In 2023 he received the ND Forest Service "Distinguished Service" tree award for his dedication to forestry practices and for discovering Champion Trees across the state. His rather large library included books about trees and forests, languages, linguistics, ethnology, literature and history. Watching movies from the 1930s and 1940s was a favorite pastime, but time spent in his woods was when he felt most alive.
He leaves behind two sisters, Cynthia Clynch, Barbara Elness (Bruce Ohme), brother Allen Elness, nephews Brandon (Paula) Clynch, Chris (Lesley Hays) Clynch, and great-nieces Aislyn Clynch and Kailyn Clynch. He was preceded in death by his father, Curtis, mother, Doris, and twin brother, Dean.