Fergus Falls Civic Orchestra 1947

Accomplished flautist: Duane Larson, the leftmost flautist, pictured in the Fergus Falls Civic Orchestra in 1947.

An accomplished musician, banker and community member has died.

On Sept. 19, Duane Francis Larson died of natural causes at the age of 94.

Larson attended Fergus Falls High School and graduated in 1945. An accomplished musician, Larson had an interest in music from a young age and joined the music program in 1937 at the age of 10. He began learning from band instructor Luther Onerheim.

He played the flute and piccolo and participated in junior and senior high school bands including, orchestras, pep band, marching band and a traveling student chamber group called the Dinner Ensemble.

While in high school, he received lessons from Donald Berglund of the St. Olaf Orchestra, William Pfeiffer of the Cincinnati Conservatory, and All Hapke who occasionally played with the Chicago Symphony. Larson also spent his summers attending band camp at Fair Hills Resort until its closure due to the beginning of World War II.

After graduating, Larson spent two years in military service as part of the Army Air Force and received accelerated engineering training through the Army Specialized Training Reserve Program. He was honorably discharged in 1947.

He went on to work for the Fergus Falls National Bank (now Wells Fargo) and received his diploma from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957. After 45 years of work he retired. Soon after, Larson left retirement and began working for West Central Initiative Fund from 1995 to 2020.

”We’ll miss Duane immensely,” said Greg Wagner, director of business and economic development at West Central Initiative and a colleague of Larson’s. “He contributed so much to West Central Initiative and added value to our work across the region. We’re all better for knowing and working with him. He played an important role in supporting and helping our region’s businesses. His work will leave a lasting and immeasurable impact on our region.”

Larson continued to share his musical gifts with the community while living and working in Fergus Falls. He played with the Fergus Fall Civic Orchestra for more than 50 seasons. He also played with the Heart of the Lakes Community Band and the M State college and community band.

Additionally, he appeared as a guest soloist for the Silver Winds Flute Choir of Hopkins and was a member of the National Flute Association and the Upper Midwest Flute Association.

“I’d say that Duane is one of the reasons there is a legacy of great local music and arts appreciation in Fergus Falls,” said Craig Peterson, director of the Fergus Falls Orchestra as well as founder and director of the Fergus Falls Civic Orchestra.

“He played flute in various local ensembles for over 70 years ... he sounded fantastic when I heard him. To be a player of his caliber after 70-plus years of playing is astounding — something I think we can all aspire to. I know the civic orchestra was important to people like Duane, and I’m fortunate that the group came back together in time for him to enjoy it. It was a real pleasure to get to know and work with him in the last few years of his life.”

In 2019, Larson was honored by being inducted into the Fergus Falls High School Hall of Fame.

A small service was held for Larson on Sept. 26, and he was laid to rest next to his parents, his wife, Mary, and infant daughter, Mary Frances.

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