Duane Edward West, 92, of Garden City, Kansas passed away on Wednesday, December 6, 2023, at the Ranch House senior living facility in Garden City, Kansas. Duane was born September 19, 1931, in Deerfield, Kansas, to the late Franklin Grinstead West and Nellie Mae Barnes West. Duane was the youngest of five children and took great pride and full advantage of being the “baby” of the family. The success of his three older brothers and his beloved older sister motivated him throughout his entire life. Duane graduated from Garden City High School and continued his education at Garden City Community College before transferring to Washburn University, where he graduated with a Juris Doctor and was admitted to the Kansas Bar in 1956.
Duane met Orvileta Mae Gracey in 1954 at Fort Hays State College where she was completing her degree. He loved to tell the story that he heard church bells the moment he met her, and the soulmates were married two years later in Hugoton, Kansas, on August 26, 1956. Both often recounted with pride that they paid for the entirety of their wedding themselves. Duane and Orvileta made their home in Garden City together for more than 65 years, where they raised a son and daughter.
Duane had a lifetime love of southwestern Kansas. He started his own law firm in Garden City and served as the Finney County Prosecutor. Duane was also a lifelong, unapologetic Democrat and political junkie: He served Garden City as a City Commissioner for more 13 years, was Mayor in 1978 and 1981, and ran for the ‘Big First’ congressional seat in 1990 and 1992. He was instrumental in the City of Garden City establishing Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in 1976 and served on the board of directors of the Southwest Kansas Area Mental Health Association, the Sandhills Art Association, the Community Concert Series, and the Garden City YMCA. He was also an active member of the First United Methodist Church in Garden City. Throughout his life, Duane took every opportunity to advocate for Garden City and all of southwestern Kansas.
Duane was particularly interested in the life of Garden City’s co-founder, Charles Jesse “Buffalo” Jones. His passion for the local folk hero led to the installation and dedication of the Buffalo Jones statue on the Finney County courthouse grounds. He later learned to play the piano in his 70s so he could write and compose a musical about Buffalo Jones’ life and adventures. He took great pride when his musical, “Dream Your Dreams” was staged and performed at the Garden City Community College.
Duane was also very involved with the Santa Fe Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He received the Silver Beaver Award, the highest recognition a local Council can bestow upon volunteer leaders, in acknowledgment of his leadership and service. He was instrumental in the founding of the Spanish Peaks Scout Ranch in Colorado and was a driving force in raising funds to assist with rebuilding the council’s camp and water system after a devastating fire in 2013.
Along with being a servant to his community, Duane loved to travel the United States and the world, create art and take photographs, listen to classical music, attend stage performances of all types, and—perhaps above all else—meet new people!
Duane was proceeded in death by his beloved wife Orvileta; his three brothers, Madison, Kenneth, and Howard; and his sister, Janice Lee. He is survived by his son, Nathan West, and his wife Trina; daughter, Sabrina Nichols, and her husband Tom; and grandson, Graham West, and his wife Rachel.
A memorial celebration will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 16, at the First United Methodist Church, 1106 N. Main Street, Garden City, KS. The family will receive friends immediately following the service in the Fellowship Hall of the church. The family suggests memorial contributions be made to Garden City YMCA, c/o Robson Funeral Home; 620 N. Main Street, Garden City, KS 67846.