116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Duane Van Horn retired from the Grant Wood Education Agency earlier this year at age 90, becoming the oldest employee to retire from the Cedar Rapids-based agency.
Van Horn, now 91, was a driver for the AEA, making 110 trips a week to deliver educational materials to schools, Kirkwood Community College, Four Oaks and the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
“The people on the routes get to be like family,” he said.
The trips amounted to 750 miles a week in the AEA’s service area — Linn, Johnson, Benton, Cedar, Jones, Iowa and Washington counties.
Van Horn retired from the AEA in the 1990s, before returning and retiring again.
During his 25 years with the AEA, he was recognized with a Caring Colleague award for going the extra mile, having a positive attitude and strong work ethic and caring for people and even animals — a nod to his habit of giving treats to one school’s service dog.
Van Horn said he was accustomed to driving hundreds of miles a day. As long as schools were open, he would hit the road, including in “dicey” winter weather, he said.
Van Horn’s wife, Beverly Van Horn, died in January 2021 at age 89.
“I miss her dearly,” Van Horn said. “I found a good woman, a farm girl from Marengo. Living alone is kind of lonesome. That’s why I enjoyed my routes because the people to me were like family after that many years.“
It was Van Horn’s son — who had retired at age 68 — who convinced him to retire this year, he said.
“He said, ‘A time comes in everybody’s life when you’ve had a good career, and it’s time to hang it up,’ ” Van Horn said. “I hated to do it, but I took his advice.”
Van Horn now travels across the Midwest to participate in quarter horse competitions, winning 19 first places with his 5-year-old mare, I Wanta Rock.
“It’s fun to win,” Van Horn said. “As long as I can stay healthy, I plan on riding. The good Lord above will tell me when my time is up, and he hasn’t told me yet.”
He admits he’s a bit of a “crowd favorite” and “darling of the crowd” at the quarter horse shows.
Van Horn has been a member of the quarter horse association for more 50 years and was elected to the Iowa Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2018. He attributes much of his success to horse trainer Carson Handeland at Boulder Creek Equestrian Center in Marion.
It was at his grandfather’s farm in Tama County that Van Horn acquired his love for horses. He’s owned more than 60 horses during his life.
Van Horn grew up in Cedar Rapids and graduated from high school in 1949. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Korean War, spending more than a year in combat in seven major battles before being discharged in 1953.
He worked for The Eastern Iowa Airport for about 30 years in various roles, including security, maintenance supervisor and acting airport manager.
He also worked for B.L. Anderson — since renamed — a stone quarry and asphalt company, where he was a sales manager before retiring and taking the AEA job.
Hope Runge, Grant Wood AEA operations associate, worked closely with Van Horn for 22 years.
“He’s always energetic. You’d never guess his age,” Runge said. “If he missed a route — which was rare — we would get questions asking if Duane was OK.”
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