Robert “Bob” Duckstad – Park Rapids Enterprise

Age 83, passed away August 23, 2023 after complications from surgery. Born in Duluth in 1939 to John & Althea Duckstad, Bob and his big sisters Edith and Lisa grew up in several small north country towns where their educator parents were employed: Carleton and Park Rapids, MN, and Ironwood, MI on the U.P. Bob graduated in 1957 from Luther Wright H.S. in Ironwood and remained close to his classmates for the rest of his life. He graduated from University of ND in 1961 and U of Michigan Law in 1964. He then served in the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1964-68 with postings at Holy Loch Naval Base in Scotland and Treasure Island, San Francisco. Bob’s main duty in the JAG was defending court-martialed sailors, often from infractions caused by excessive enjoyment of their shore leave.

After serious personal deliberation, balancing his sense of duty and patriotism with concerns of conscience and the desire to speak out, Bob decided to leave the Navy in 1968. In his personal notes at the time, Bob wrote: “The factor most important is the chance to do something to change society: A piece of the action. SO: OUT October 1968. I’m 28 and must get started, or I won’t.” It was a time of great change and idealism, and this was Bob’s chance to make a difference. He went to work in 1968 for the Minnesota State Senate as a lawyer-researcher. In 1973 he became Director of Research Operations for both the Senate and House of Minnesota. In this role he was the guiding force behind the writing of nearly every bill that passed into law. One of Bob’s proudest achievements was the conceiving and writing of the nation’s first ever employment-gap health insurance legislation. Later this was emulated at the Federal level as COBRA. Bob was also instrumental in the creation of the nation’s first state law requiring expiration dates for dairy products and other foods. Meanwhile, Bob had taken on management of family farms in the Red River Valley. Although he loved fighting the good fight to facilitate socially beneficial legislation, Bob decided to retire from legislative work in 1979 when the double-duty became unsustainable. He devoted the rest of his career to farm management.

Bob was also a huge fan of the Minnesota State Fair, attending every year on opening day and multiple other days, with particular fondness for ham loaf supper at the Hamline Methodist Dining Hall.

Bob lived most of his adult life in Minneapolis but had two “soul homes” to which he returned yearly for extensive periods. First was his true family home, the lake cottage built in 1920 by his Grandpa Reed on Big Twin Lake in Becker County, MN. Over the decades Bob planted hundreds of white and red pines in the woods around the cabin, working to restore the glory of the mixed native forest logged in the 19th century. Many of these pines are well on their way to becoming future giants of the forest. In addition to his citizen forestry, Bob cultivated a lifetime of connections with local residents and maintained an annual tradition of preparing a feast of grilled bratwurst, sweet corn, and angel food cake – dinner promptly at 6!

Secondly, from the late ‘80’s onward, was the quirky but charming old Hotel Los Flamingos atop the seaside cliffs of Acapulco. Bob dearly loved wintering at the family-run Los Flamingos and convinced a veritable village of friends and relatives to join him there. In the 1990’s he led an effort to rescue ownership of the hotel on behalf of the proprietor Adolfo Santiago who originally started working at the hotel as a pool boy in its long bygone “Hollywood Gang” days.

Although those who knew him knew that Bob was a man of particular ways and little patience for what he saw as incompetence, he was also a truly great hearted and generous man, animated by set of core values which he summarized as follows: “To instill humor and preserve space for individual autonomy in a world filled with powerful organizations.” Indeed he was a lifelong teller of jokes with a special fondness for dirty limericks, but always remained attuned to the issues of the day and was ever deeply supportive of the interests and livelihoods of ordinary people.

Bob is survived by sister Edith “Edy B” Miller and nieces/nephews Kathy (Sue), Eric, and Dan Miller, all in Oregon & Washington. His sister Lisa Locken predeceased him in 2007.

A memorial service will be held at 2pm on Saturday, October 14 at the Cremation Society of Minnesota, 7110 France Ave South in Edina, Minnesota. Visitation will start at 1pm.


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