Howell Area Archives Digital Archive

Remembering Duane Zemper 1919-2016



Remembering Duane Zemper 1919-2016


Many say his "feet" carried him out of a life of poverty and to our community which he called home. At Flint High School, he found hurdles were not fences and running meant winning. Lloyd W. Olds, track and field coach at Michigan Normal College recognized his potential and recruited him. With no money for college, his high school coach was his benefactor, giving Duane the thirty-five dollars needed for tuition to attend college. At Michigan Normal, Duane was the Huron's second All-American in cross country, one of only two men to ever win the State of Michigan AAU and Collegiate Championships in a single year.
Working every odd job imaginable to complete college, Duane Zemper graduated with a degree in physics, mathematics and chemistry, as a seven-time state champion and four time All-American in cross country and track and field.

Again his feet carried him forward. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served our nation as a Aerial Reconnaissance Officer. At the end of the war with great forethought, 1st Lieutenant Zemper preserved more than ten thousand war photographs, each one telling an amazing story.

Returning from the war, Duane settled in his wife's hometown of Howell and he adopted it as his own. Using the skills learned in the Army, he became a professional photographer and served this community for nearly fifty years. The historical photographs you see of Howell’s early years are here for our pleasure because Duane knew the importance of preserving the glass plate negatives and photographs that had been left behind by the previous owners when he purchased his studio overlooking the Court House.

He continued the preservation process of our history throughout his career. Duane donated his time to capture Howell High School sporting events, never missing a football game, home or away, in twenty-five years. He mentored and coached countless athletes and founded the Howell Athletic Boosters.

Named 1976 Citizen of the Year by the Chamber of Commerce, the City of Howell declared June 9th "Duane L Zemper Day". As a Rotarian he was proud of his nearly 68 years of perfect attendance.

He co-founded the Howell Area Archives, in the Howell Carnegie District Library and was a major contributor and co-author of the treasured 1776 -1976 Howell Bicentennial History Book. The ''Duane Zemper Award" is given by the Howell library to those individuals who bring positive attention and extraordinary support to the library.

Even a man from humble beginnings can inspire a community. As an Athlete, Professor, Veteran, Photographer, Preservationist, Historian, Storyteller, Coach, Mentor, Booster, Rotarian, Teacher and Friend, he is woven into the fabric of our history and into the hearts of everyone who lives here. He spent most of his life collecting and passing on the stories of Howell and the people who have called it home. As he often said, “Everyone has a story, what’s yours?”






Moving Image


Howell Area Archives

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“Remembering Duane Zemper 1919-2016,” Howell Area Archives Digital Archive, accessed May 19, 2024,
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