Duane was born and raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, where by age 5 he was driving John Deere Models A and B pulling bundle wagons during threshing. He graduated from Michigan State University in 1972 with a PhD in Nuclear Physics. He then moved to Knoxville, TN, where he was employed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a research physicist; he retired in October 2001 from the Physics Division as Operations Manager and Director of a particle accelerator facility.
In 1968 Duane married Nancy, who is also retired from a career as a research physicist at ORNL. Duane and Nancy have one daughter, Linnea, who is a structural engineer with Bent Creek Engineering in Asheville, NC. Linnea is married to Steve Linton, who is CEO of Deltec Homes in Asheville. Linnea & Steve have two young sons, both of whom are interested in anything mechanical, especially if it is green and yellow.
Duane bought his first antique tractor (1931 GP John Deere) in 1970, and his second (1936 B JD) in 1971 while a graduate student. By 2009, Duane owned fifteen John Deere tractors (mostly unstyled) and five tractors of other brands. Duane was an avid collector of literature, including sales, parts manuals, and service manuals, with emphasis on Field Service Bulletins. He also collected memorabilia, signs, tools used for repairing John Deere tractors, and some toys. Duane's spark plug collecting started with his attempt to assemble a collection of plugs that came as original equipment on JD tractors; his final collection contained about 400 plugs. He was a member of the Spark Plug Collectors of America.
Duane began rebuilding magnetos and carburetors for antique tractors and engines in 1984 under the business name LARTEK. He collected tools, equipment, literature, and signs related to magneto and carburetor repair.
Duane died Wednesday, July 8, 2009, following a two-year battle with cancer. Many of the items in his collections have been sold or given away, though some smaller things remain to be dispersed. And of course Nancy plans to keep a few sentimental pieces.