Duane Franklin Gleason, 93, died December 9, 2023 in Brooksville, Fla. He had recently taken up residence in Homosassa, Florida after living in Key Largo for a number of years. Born July 17, 1930 in Hudson, NY, he was the son of Franklin Major Gleason and Dorothy Hempstead, the beloved husband of Susan Champagne and cherished father of Gail Gleason Wheeler, Wendy Gleason Delamater, Duane Gleason Jr, John Champagne and Brian Champagne.
Duane reminisced, often, about growing up in Red Rock, NY, on his family farm during the depression, and the stories could be both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It was not an easy life for a sensitive child, who loved every animal he ever encountered. In fact, he was an animal advocate all his life, and it is reported he befriended any iguana who crossed his path and even once resuscitated a Palmetto Bug. His early education took place in a one room schoolhouse, and tales of walking so many miles to school, in older grades, were actually true. His early experiences on the farm shaped his work ethic, instilled a sense of responsibility, and created a bond with the land and a passion for planting and growing all manner of fruits,vegetables and flowers.
After attending Chatham High School, where he was a member of the football team, he served proudly and honorably in the United States Navy, and later, the United States Army during the Korean War. His military service played a significant role in shaping his character and instilling discipline. Like many men of his generation, he rarely talked of his experience, but in later years, he would give some insight into the impact war and combat had on his life, but would follow with a reflection on duty and service or a recitation of part of a Tennyson poem about a battle during the Crimean War he had been forced to memorize in school which spoke of courage and honor. "Theirs not to question why. Theirs but to do and die. Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred."
One treasured family story tells of a hopeful young man and his new wife, Elizabeth, buying a diner outside of Hudson, NY, where he cooked and she waitressed and somehow took care of a newborn daughter. His versatility was evident as he engaged in various professions throughout his long life. From working in the trucking industry, to being a successful salesman, a chef, and an antiques dealer and restorer, he embraced the opportunity to explore different fields.
He found solace in the beauty of the natural world and spent countless hours exploring the woodlands, lakes and brooks in, and around, Columbia County, observing wildlife and practicing the art of fly fishing . On his many scuba diving excursions with his wife, Susan, he was fascinated by all levels of sea life, as well as the exploration and history of the wrecks of many ships in both the Florida Keys and the Great Lakes. He was an avid student of life, with an extensive knowledge of history, which fueled his love for storytelling. He was never afraid to be vulnerable in the telling, as he expressed his emotions and reflections on life. With a twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh, he charmed and entertained family, friends and strangers for hours. Some of his most endearing qualities were his remarkable sense of humor and conversational skills. His ability to find joy in most situations and make others laugh was a gift. He could turn even the simplest conversation into a memorable experience. His engaging personality and charismatic demeanor made him a cherished friend and companion as he effortlessly connected with people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Duane will be very much missed by all who loved him.
Duane is survived by his wife, Susan Champagne Gleason, his children, Gail (Lance) Gleason Wheeler, Wendy Gleason Delamater, Duane(Rebecca) Franklin Gleason Jr., John (Cindy) Champagne and Brian (Elizabeth) Champagne; grandchildren, Morganne and Cameron Wheeler, Jamie Pratt, Bradley Delamater, Jacqueline Delamater Nesbitt, Olivia and Logan Gleason, Kaitlin and Blake Champagne and Tyler Collins, and seven great grandchildren. Also surviving him is his sister, Evelyn Rowe, sister-in-law Lisa (Phillip) Gale Peery and several nieces and nephews. Survivors also include devoted cousins, Harold Downs and Alice Gilberg and special family friend, Jerry Tettery.
He was predeceased by his parents, his beloved sister and brother-in-law, Ardeth and George Steeneck, and his first wife, Elizabeth Richardson Bennett.
Visitation hours will be held on Wednesday, December 20, at 4 PM at Konicek & Collet Funeral Home in Watervliet, NY. A funeral mass will be held at 9:30 AM at Saint Marys's Catholic Church in Waterford, followed by interment in Gerald B.H Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery, 200 Duell Rd, Schuylerville, NY.