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Past president Duane Henrikson was presented with a plaque in appreciation of his service to the Oak Crossing Family Council by current president Jeanne Teiken. Henrikson served for 20 years as president, and still is on the council even though he's no longer its president. Submitted Photo

Turning over the reins: After 20 years, Henrikson stepping down

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For over two decades, Duane Henrikson has been an advocate for families with loved ones entering long-term care at Oak Crossing.

This month, his dedication was recognized by the Oak Crossing Family Council, as he prepared to step down from his 20-year tenure as its president.

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"I've turned the reins over to someone else," Henrikson said in a Tuesday interview.

New Family Council president Jeanne Teiken has been tasked with continuing Henrikson's legacy of service and advocacy.

The Oak Crossing Family Council in Detroit Lakes started as St. Mary's Nursing Center Family Council in December 1989.

Henrikson, whose mother was a resident of the nursing home at that time, was part of an initial group who met to plan activities for family members and nursing home staff. 

He also volunteered to welcome new family members as residents were admitted.

"I just felt there were some things I could do to help them out," Henrikson said.

Though his mother passed away a few years later, he continued to be involved because, as he put it, "I just felt there was a need."

He has continued to be involved with the council because he feels strongly that "the family council makes a difference in the lives of its residents."

After becoming Family Council president in 1992, Henrikson led the group in many fundraising projects, like selling his delicious doughnuts at community events.

Oak Crossing's first ice cream social was held in 1992 and later became the annual Party in the Park, which is still held each July.

"We started the Party in the Park as a fundraiser, and that's been going on for 20 years now," Henrikson said.

In 1995, the Family Council was awarded the Minnesota Alliance for Health Care Consumers Achievement Honor for their advocacy for residents in long-term care.

In 2001, the Family Council was named the Minnesota Health and Housing Alliance Family Council of the Year. Family Council members traveled to Minneapolis to accept the prestigious award and presented a program on Family Council development and their purpose in long-term care.

And then, in 2003, Henrikson received the Minnesota Health and Housing Alliance Volunteer of the Year Award. Once again, he traveled to the Twin Cities to accept the award.

"I was pretty proud of that," he admitted, but added, "to get up and speak in front of all those people and talk -- it was scary."

Henrikson's dedication and hard work were honored because of his involvement and advocacy for all seniors.

At the November Family Council meeting, Duane was presented with a plaque for his 20 years of service as president.

"It was so satisfying to have everyone work together," he says. "We were able to accomplish so much and it makes you feel good inside."

The plaque was given in appreciation of his outstanding leadership and his continued support and involvement.

These days, however, he is content to be a follower rather than a leader.

"I'm not the chair anymore -- I'm just one of the gang," Henrikson said.

He and his wife of 65 years, Opal, continue to live on their small, 19-acre farm south of Audubon, the town where Henrikson was born and raised.

Though they don't have children, the couple is still well remembered in the community for running the Audubon Café and later, the Joy Land Resort on Big Cormorant Lake. They owned and operated the resort together for 29 years.

"Then I thought I was going to retire, but I couldn't stand it, so I got into real estate for about 10 years," Henrikson said.

Now, however, he really is retired, and says that most of his time is spent "caring for my wife."

His involvement with the Oak Crossing Family Council hasn't ended, however.

"I still go to the meetings," he said.

Henrikson will also continue to be involved in various fundraising projects with the council. Over the years, they have accomplished such goals as purchasing a piano, an organ, and even a van for transporting residents.

Most recently, Henrikson said, "We've been working on the chapel (at Oak Crossing). We have it finished now -- it's really nice."

Though they haven't settled on a new project yet, Henrikson said, "they're planning a lot of things to make life more appealing for the residents."

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 14 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as obituaries. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 844-1454
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