Time Machine

Time Machine: The story of Duane Arnold, the namesake for an Eastern Iowa nuclear power plant

William J. Grede (right), a YMCA leader from Milwaukee, spoke March 16, 1959, at the 90th annual meeting of the Cedar Ra
William J. Grede (right), a YMCA leader from Milwaukee, spoke March 16, 1959, at the 90th annual meeting of the Cedar Rapids YMCA. He is shown here visiting with William Whipple (left), outgoing president of the Cedar Rapids organization, and Duane Arnold, who succeeded Whipple as president. (Gazette archives)

Duane J. Arnold, who would become the namesake for a nuclear power plant in Eastern Iowa, grew up liking to perform, often taking part in school musical programs.

Arnold was born Nov. 12, 1917, in Sanborn, a small railroad town in northwest Iowa. His parents were Grant Dole and Beatrice Short Arnold.

He was the middle child, flanked by older brother Max and younger sister Cleta Mae.

In a 1957 Gazette interview, Arnold told of his first job as a child: “I was seven and I had a bread route — I picked up the bread at the train and loaded it into my wagon and went door-to-door selling it.”

The Arnolds lived in Sanborn until 1927, when the family relocated to Sioux City as Grant Arnold began the first of a string of jobs as a restaurant operator who bought businesses, built them up, sold them and moved on. The Arnold family also lived in Waterloo, Grinnell and Creston.

While the family was living in Waterloo in 1930, Beatrice Arnold died. The Arnold children gained a stepmother in 1934 and a half-brother, Gary Lee, in 1935.

From Musicals To Comedy To Drama

As a teenager, Duane Arnold performed as part of a comedy ensemble. He gave a solo performance of a musical monologue, “I’m a Popular Man,” in a February 1932 George Washington birthday celebration hosted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Waterloo. He followed that with a first-place oratorical finish in March for a piece called “A Challenge to Youth.”

That same month, he was part of the evening’s entertainment at a meeting of the Business and Professional Women’s Club. He performed songs and participated in a dramatic sketch.

In 1934, Arnold moved with his family to Creston for his senior year of high school. He played on the Creston football team, and the Sept. 4 Creston News Advertiser described him as 6-foot-2 and husky.


When the season was done, he returned to the stage, playing a motor policeman in a two-act production called “The Count and the Co-ed.”

The Creston News Advertiser reported that “Duane Arnold, whose natural actions and apparent ease on the stage combined with much spirit, made his solo ‘In Zanzibar’ one of the show’s high spots.”

His swan song as a Creston senior was a part in the senior play, “Wind in the South,” as a soldier just home from the Great War.

Family tragedy, military service

Arnold’s father died April 11, 1938, at age 41. Arnold was 21. His grandfather, Mason City carpenter William L. Huffman, died a little over a year later in the summer of 1939.

Arnold went to college in San Francisco, then moved back to Iowa to attend Grinnell College. He graduated in 1942 with a degree in economics.

From there, with World War II in full swing, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps Reserve at Quantico, Va. He soon earned a regular commission and spent three-and-a-half years in the Marine Corps, 28 months of that in the Pacific theater. He was discharged with the rank of captain.

After leaving the military in 1945, he began his career with Iowa Electric Light and Power Co. in Cedar Rapids.

Marriage Into Dows Family

In January 1946, Mr. and Mrs. Sutherland Dows announced the engagement of their daughter, Henrietta, to Duane Arnold.

Henrietta Dows had attended Miss Master’s School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and the Greenwood School in Ruxton, Md. After a brief period at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, she attended the Chicago Art Institute.

The wedding took place April 27, 1946, at First Presbyterian Church. Max Arnold was his brother’s best man, while Henrietta’s maid of honor, Dorothy Little of Chicago, was joined by three other bridesmaids.

The pair left for a wedding trip on the East Coast.


When they returned to Cedar Rapids, they temporarily moved into the family home at 700 First Ave. NE (now the site of Bank of the West). The home had been built in 1890 by the Hon. Stephen L. Dows and his wife, Henrietta, as a wedding present for the younger Henrietta’s grandparents, William G. Dows and Margaret Burnell Cook Dows.

Family, Community Involvement

Arnold was elected in 1947 to serve as trustee for one year at First Presbyterian Church, and he soon became a director of Perpetual Savings and Loan Association of Cedar Rapids.

By 1950, Arnold was vice president in charge of operations at Iowa Electric Light and Power Co. Henrietta, meanwhile, was busy raising children Margaret and Helen, attending night school at Coe and running for the Cedar Rapids School Board.

Duane Arnold became president of the Cedar Rapids YMCA in 1959 at the organization’s 90th annual meeting.

He took over as president of Iowa Electric in August 1961, when his father-in-law, Sutherland Dows, became chairman of the board.

The Arnolds had five children when they moved to 321 Crescent St. SE in November 1961. Margaret, the oldest at 14, was a student at the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Helen, 13, attended eighth grade at Franklin in Cedar Rapids, while Duane, Elizabeth and Mary went to Johnson Elementary in Cedar Rapids.

Duane Arnold Energy Center

Iowa Electric was one of four companies that authorized a study of future electric generation in Iowa in March 1967. The study would determine whether a mega-generating station would be fired by coal or nuclear energy, Arnold said.

The application for a license to construct and operate the nuclear-powered Duane Arnold Energy Center in Palo was filed with the Atomic Energy Commission in November 1968.

The nuclear power plant began generating energy in 1974 but is set to cease operations later this year.

(319) 398-8338; d.fannonlangton@gmail.com

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.