Long-time columnist Bill Duncan dies

Bill Duncan

By CRAIG REED

For the Capital Press

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- Bill Duncan, whose column was a fixture on the pages of the Capital Press for nearly 20 years, died last week. He was 82.

Duncan was killed in a car accident on the rural road in front of his home near Roseburg at around noon on Nov. 18.

Duncan had a 27-year newspaper career as a reporter and editor in southern California before he and his wife Ada moved to Oregon in 1977. He became a freelance correspondent for the Capital Press about three years later, reporting and writing about agricultural issues and events in Douglas County for about 10 years before becoming strictly a columnist for the paper for the past 20 years.

"Writing was his passion," said Ada Duncan. "He was a newspaper delivery boy in Florida, and he said then that 'reporting and writing is what I want to do.' He followed his passion, by golly."

In addition to writing for the Capital Press, Duncan also wrote weekly columns and book reviews for his hometown newspaper, the News-Review.

"I was among the many fans of Bill Duncan's columns on life," said Mike Forrester, chairman of the Capital Press board of directors. "It's no wonder that those pieces were a hit with many men and women in Western agriculture. He was an independent thinker, and so are they. He believed in common sense, and so do they. He was tough in the face of infirmity and other obstacles -- they, too. And I think that Bill and Capital Press readers give back to their communities -- Bill mentored dozens of writers over the years."

Duncan was born April 11, 1929, in Georgia and grew up in Florida. He served in the Marines for eight years and was always quick to express his pride in being one. He was headed to the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Roseburg to provide hospice services to a dying Marine veteran when he was killed in the accident. He had been a hospice volunteer for 11 years.

After his service as a Marine, Duncan earned his journalism degree at Woodbury College in Los Angeles and proceeded to work for the Independent in Long Beach, Calif., and the Daily Democrat in Woodland, Calif., before moving north to the Roseburg area.

He was named director of the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross in 1977 and held that position for 15 years. At the same time he began doing freelance writing and editing.

"He carried a notebook with him all the time and wrote down comments or situations that he would come back to later and write about," Ada Duncan said of her husband.

"He has mountains of notebooks and he knows what's in them. He said, 'I'm just a trained observer. As a reporter, that's what I do.' He had an ability to observe and note what went on around him."

Duncan is survived by his wife, Ada, six children, 15 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Bill and Ada would have celebrated their 61st wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving day. He was preceded in death by his son Barry.

A memorial Mass for Duncan was said Tuesday in Roseburg, followed by burial with full military honors at the Roseburg National Cemetery.

"Bill Duncan loved being a lifelong journalist who called 'em as he saw them," Forrester said. "He had many loyal readers."

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