Robert ‘Duane’ Horton

Robert “Duane” Horton of Peconic died May 13, 2022, with his family by his side. He was 91 years old.

Duane was born to Albert and Ruth Horton of Roslyn, N.Y. Known for his big smile, sense of humor and thirst for adventure, Duane’s childhood antics became legendary tales for his siblings, Chet, Audrey and Marilyn. Musically inclined, he joined a traveling boys’ choir that raised money for the war effort and later took up the trumpet and standup bass. After high school Duane joined the United States Air Force, which trained him to work on the engines of B-50 bombers, but assigned him to work on B-29 bombers with the 54th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron in Guam. Duane loved the B-29 and worked his way up to crew chief and then flight engineer, serving honorably during the Korean conflict. 

After his service, Duane attended Buffalo State Teachers College, where he enjoyed singing in the glee club, “walking the bar” to win free beer and wooing his beautiful future bride, Ada Purdy. They married in Canandaigua, N.Y., on Aug. 2, 1957, and began their 63 years together on Long Island, where Duane began his career as an industrial arts teacher at Sachem High School. In the early years, they rented summer homes during the winter months, piled their belongings into friends’ garages during the summers and explored the country in their Volkswagen camper van. 

Choosing what Duane considered “the most beautiful view on the North Fork” as the place they wanted to raise their family, Duane and Ada then spent their summers and weekends building themselves a home. They had two children, Christopher (Colleen Kean) and Elaine (David Gardiner), who relished the adventures their dad provided them. Duane delighted in pulling squealing children on water skis or toboggans and any child felt two inches taller earning his praise for any job well done. During their childhood years, Duane built play equipment for their preschool, taught their 4-H clubs and served on the Southold school board. Their home was a gathering place for clambakes and boating excursions, sledding and skating, projects and parties. 

Duane completed his master’s degree at Hofstra University and later became the superintendent of buildings and grounds for Sachem Central School District. After retiring, he was rehired as a consultant and project manager for Sachem, Hauppauge and Westhampton Beach school districts. After retiring a second time, Duane enjoyed keeping busy with a third career, driving for and eating powdered donuts with his greenhouse mates at C.J. Van Bourgondien. He retired for the third time at the age of 86.

With a heart as big as his smile, Duane made friends with whomever he met and was respected by all he worked with. He loved telling a good story and everyone loved listening to his tales. Known as someone who could build or fix anything, Duane was always willing to lend a hand to his friends, neighbors and church. An active and dedicated member of the Southold American Legion, Duane served proudly on the honor guard and as post commander. “Cuppy” enjoyed boating, fishing, wood working, tinkering on engines and especially hunting and snowmobiling with his buddies at the family “camp” in the Adirondacks. Nothing made him happier than hosting friends and family at his home or camp and creating memories for his grandchildren, Erin, Ryan, Emma, Robert and Rachel, and numerous nieces and nephews. He often remarked how fortunate he was. 

His wife and family will receive visitors Thursday, May 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Southold, where funeral services will be held at 6 p.m., with the Rev. Peter Kelley officiating. Graveside services will be held at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 20, at Calverton National Cemetery. 

Memorial donations may be made to Griswold-Terry-Glover American Legion Post 803 or First Presbyterian Church of Southold.

This is a paid notice.