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Wething earns Oberstar Award

Present for the award were, from left, Bob Lousieau, DL city administrator; Mark Hagen, airport commission chairman; Bev Wething; Doc Wething; Harry Salminen, airport commissioner; Howard Hansen, airport commissioner; Laurel Satran, airport commissioner

Detroit Lakes' Duane "Doc" Wething was presented with the James L. Oberstar Award at the annual Minnesota Council of Airports conference in Duluth.

The Oberstar Award is the highest honor given by the MCOA organization. The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated a strong interest and continuous action in aviation and airport development in the State of Minnesota.

In attendance were representatives from airports around the state, FAA district and regional staff, MnDOT Aviations staff, and various servicing organizations related to airports.

Wething obtained his aircraft pilots license in 1944 at the age of 16 and has been a tireless promoter of aviation in Becker County and the State of Minnesota for close to 70 years.

He was the major influence in the creation of the joint Detroit Lakes/Becker County Airport Commission and served as chairman for 39 years, retiring from the Commission in 2008.

Wething has volunteered in countless organizations and been a public servant on several boards, councils, and committees. He would often use these as opportunities to promote aviation.

Over the years, Wething promoted the development of numerous airport improvement projects. His leadership saw the airport grow from a small grass strip to a field with over 60 based piston and turbine aircraft.

He oversaw the extension and paving of the main runway, construction of the current Arrival/Departure Building, building of over 60 hanger spaces, the development of the maintenance facilities, installation of lighting and aircraft navigation systems along with numerous other major improvements. There is a good reason the field is officially known as "Wething Field."

He help organize a local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol, provided flights for the EAA Young Eagles Program; organized the DARE flights for over 300 6th grade students each year, and gave many people their first airplane ride.

Wething served on the Board of the Minnesota Council of Airports since 1990 and is a past chairman of that organization. He was also a member of the University of Minnesota AirTAP board.

His efforts, which were out of true passion and conviction to aviation, have made a significant mark in local, regional and statewide areas of aviation.

Presentation of the award on behalf of the Minnesota Council of Airports and Congressman Oberstar was one of the highlights of the converence. Wething accepted the award onstage with his wife, Beverly, his daughter, Sue Neitzke, and her husband, Dennis. He considered himself "fortunate to work with so may good people who got so much done over the years."