FLOOD FIGHTERS: 'You get back more than you give'June Duray has fought floods from Hendrum to Oslo, Minn., armed only with “a smile and an ear to listen.” The 54-year-old has volunteered with the Salvation Army’s canteen bus, making sandwiches, chili and hot chocolate to feed flood fighters along the Red River Valley for 15 years.
Family: Son Jarrid, 27
Home: Grand Forks
When not a flood fighter: Volunteer
Flood fighter equipment: Red vest
Flood fighter duty: Salvation Army sandwich-maker
Best flood memory: As a child, having flooded-out cousins stay at her family’s farmhouse
Worst flood memory: Visiting her old house, 809 Lincoln Drive, in 1997. “I saw the water right up to the dike. It was very scary.”
June Duray has fought floods from Hendrum to Oslo, armed only with “a smile and an ear to listen.”
The 54-year-old has volunteered with the Salvation Army’s canteen bus, making sandwiches, chili and hot chocolate to feed flood fighters along the Red River Valley for 15 years. It’s a practice she started with her parents, but this year Duray is the only active volunteer left of the three. Her father died two years ago, and her mother stopped volunteering after she turned 91 in December.
“I watched my parents receive with one hand and give with the other all their lives up until their 90s, and by their example I learned true joy comes from serving and giving,” Duray said.
Her parents used to farm near Warsaw, N.D., where helping neighbors in need was common.
“It’s easy to just jump in and pitch in whenever you’re needed,” she said.
Volunteering also is natural for Duray, she said, because she is a twin. Growing up with her sister Joy made her “learn to give and share right off the bat.”
Duray remembers enjoying the spring floods as a child, since they were social events. Cousins and neighbors would move into their family’s farmhouse, and school often was canceled.
“It was awesome, to be honest,” Duray said.
The family would move its horses and cows to higher ground and take hay to them by boat.
Their love of animals led the family to volunteer at the Humane Society when Duray’s parents moved to Grand Forks in 1982.
A few years later, Duray moved to flood-prone Lincoln Drive. She moved again in 1996 to be closer to her son’s school. When she visited Lincoln Drive after the Flood of 1997, Duray was struck by the devastation that hit “neighbor after neighbor after neighbor.”
These days, Duray spends most of her time volunteering. One of her favorite activities is providing hospice care, which she has done for the past 10 years. She spends time with the dying, reading and talking to them.
“Because they don’t know you—you don’t really know their families or their backgrounds—they share everything. It’s a very tender moment. It’s really beautiful. You know, I find that we get so much more back than we could ever give,” Duray said.
As flood season approaches, Duray is ready for active duty with the Salvation Army.
“[You] just wait for the call. You’re on a list, and you just grab your vest and go.”
Gulya covers education. Reach her at (701) 780-1118; (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.