Hard work, challenges and helping others always have been a part of Duane Youse’s personal ethic. The former Marine spent most of his career in the men’s clothing business and is now retired, thanks in part to a reverse mortgage. He now is able to pursue his avocation—volunteering and making life better for those around him.

Born in 1934, Duane was raised by his parents and grandparents on a farm that had corn, wheat and alfalfa, as well as some cattle and hogs.

“Growing up on a farm gives you a different perspective than city life,” Duane says about his childhood near Clay Center, KS. “It can be too wet or too dry. You pay attention to the seasons, and there is always hard work.”

By the time he was in high school, the family had moved into town. Eventually, he joined the Marine Corps. After basic and combat training in San Diego, he taught tactics at Camp Pendleton, also in Southern California, to recruits heading off to Korea. Duane later enrolled at Emporia State University in Kansas, graduating with a business degree.

He married Betty, whom he had known since high school, and they moved to Wheat Ridge, CO, which forms the apex of a triangle with Denver and Golden. Betty worked for Lockheed Martin. Later, they moved just north to Arvada and bought what Duane describes as a two-bedroom, semi-detached patio home with a basement. He had some experience in the clothing business, so he went to work for a clothing store in Arvada. It wasn’t long before he was managing the store. A couple of years later, Duane and several associates bought the store. After selling both men’s and women’s fashion, they decided to concentrate on tailored men’s clothing. Along the way, Betty and Duane raised two sons, Michael and Kelly, born two years apart.

“Betty and I were fortunate,” Duane says. “Your children are a result of what you are. We had no particular plan or approach to parenting—just nurture and teach the lessons you’ve learned.”

Business was good for a while, Duane relates. “But then we had a major downturn when the trend to casual work clothes came into play and that forced us out of business.” He went to work for another clothing store in Cherry Creek in Denver and stayed there for nine years.

But Duane’s passion was volunteering. He donated his services to the Arvada Community Food Bank and eventually became its director. He joined the Kiwanis Club and the local chamber of commerce, both with the goal “of helping youth in the community.”

“Volunteering is the link to making a community great,” Duane remarks.

He and Betty also pursued their wanderlust. “Betty and I did a lot of traveling; more than 80 countries.”

In addition, Duane began a new avocation at age 55, through the encouragement of his sons. “The boys wanted me to get more physical activity, so they took me climbing.” Since then, he has climbed mountains worldwide. “I’ve climbed in Nepal with Mike. We climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I went to Peru and climbed in the Andes. Mountain climbing is really an exhilaration. You really do feel as if you’re on top of the world.”

Duane and Betty’s life changed, though, when her health began to decline. “First it was dementia, then it reached a point where her physical needs changed, with a variety of symptoms,” he recalls. “It got very expensive. She was in the hospital for 45 days, and the bill was three quarters of a million dollars. That really hurt the bank account. We got together with our financial adviser and went over our options.”

The adviser suggested a reverse mortgage and referred them to Don Opeka, president of Orion Mortgage, which is just north in Broomfield, CO. They compared a reverse mortgage to taking early withdrawals from annuities. After factoring in taxes and penalties, the reverse mortgage was a more attractive way to fund the care.

“Don and I are both men of faith, so that bonded us even more,” Duane says. “He went over all the aspects of our life and finances. He explained everything, and it made common sense. Don gets a lot of referrals from people who are treated fairly and squarely. Arvada is a close-tight-knit community, with one of the highest volunteer rates in the country. Communicating with people and looking out for the other guy is No. 1. It pays a lot of dividends.”

He and Don are friends who talk and see each other regularly. “You don’t have to look far to find good people,” Duane states.

Betty passed away on Aug. 4, 2017. Duane wanted to continue living in the house they had shared. As life went on for him, Duane became friendly with a lady in the neighborhood, a retired Episcopalian pastor who had lost her husband. They started dating.

Duane has time to pursue some of his other passions, including reading, studying and archiving. He is an amateur historian of World War II. He continues his volunteer activities and participation in the church. His sons Mike, who works for Lockheed Martin, and Kelly, a contractor to Xcel Energy, and their families live close by, so Duane is involved with his grandchildren. Recently, the contact has been primarily through Skype due to COVID-19’s physical distancing demands. “There are so many activities that I have a full day,” he comments. “The Lord’s been good to me.”

Looking both backward and forward, Duane articulates the philosophy he has always lived. “Nothing is handed to you,” he says. “It’s what you make of yourself.”