LANESBORO, Minn. (FOX 47) – The Lanesboro community continues to mourn the loss of a friend, neighbor and long time public figure.
On Saturday, Minnesota Lawmaker and former NFL player Duane Benson passed away after a five year battle with cancer. He was 73.
When hearing the name Duane Benson, a number of things come to mind: athlete, state senator, volunteer, friend.
“He’s just multi-talented. I just, he was a really unbelievable person. hes the kind of person that everyone should know,” Lanesboro resident Rick Lamon said.
But for those who knew him best, it’s just two words.
“Daune was just a good guy,” Lamon continued. “He was just a good guy. In every way, in every sense.”
While the former NFL player was a man who wore many hats, he was also humble.
“He didn’t need attention,” Lamon said. “He obviously got attention for everything he did in life and his accomplishments and all that. But he just wasn’t, he just wasn’t that kind of person.”
Growing up in Grand Meadow, Benson embraced the small town of Lanesboro in his adult life.
For 25 years, he volunteered as a Sunday School teacher. He did the same as an assistant coach for the high school’s football team.
“He never rubbed our nose in the fact that he was a professional athlete,” former head coach and Lanesboro resident Tom Hatlei said. “He got right down to it. Wins and loses were a part of the game, but he was more interested in the kids.”
Benson also represented Southeastern Minnesota in the state Senate for 14 years.
“Small town values were very very important to him,” Hatlei said.
Accomplishments aside, Benson was a true country boy.
“He was a kind generous man, but I like to think of him as a good old country boy from down here in Lanesboro,” Lanesboro resident John Overland said.
Benson made friends wherever he went and kept them close – including his former Oakland Raiders coach John Madden. Overland says as he knew his time was coming to an end, he made a call to his old coach.
“Coach Madden told him, he said I love you Duane,” Overland said. “And Duane said that was the first time in my life where a man told me he loved me.”
A memorial service for Benson is set for Thursday at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 11 a.m.