Former Sen. Duane Mutch, 93, of Larimore, died the night of Wednesday, July 17.
Mutch served in the North Dakota Senate for 47 years and was known by some as the most conservative Republican in the Legislature. District 19 first elected Mutch in 1958. He lost re-election in 1976 but regained his seat in 1979. He served until 2006, when his opponent was elected by a narrow margin.
Mutch said in a 2018 interview with the Grand Forks Herald that his conservative and individualistic worldview came from his self-reliance, which he gained when he worked for his father from a young age.
“An individual can do better for himself than anyone else, or he doesn’t have to do it,” said Mutch in the interview.
Mutch said that he “always was a conservative-thinking person” and that it is “all a matter of a person’s opinion what’s too far right.”
“Right is right and wrong is wrong,” Mutch said in the interview.
Paul Mutch, Mutch’s son, said that his father was “very family-oriented” and was a “man of strong principles” that worked for many years to serve the community as a state legislator.
“He instilled in us a strong work ethic … a strong love for our country and a strong sense of patriotism,” Paul said.
Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Dist. 17, has been sitting in Mutch’s former desk for the past six sessions and can see his name written in it. He said news of Mutch’s death saddened him.
“They should remember him … as a true believer,” Holmberg said. “He was conservative. He believed in it, and he practiced it. He wasn’t a politician that was wishy-washy. He told the truth, and I think that may have garnered respect.”
Holmberg began serving in the legislature in 1977, so his time there overlapped with Mutch’s for about 27 years. He said Mutch was an “engaging conversationalist” and that he enjoyed hearing Mutch’s stories about the Legislature of the 1960s.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem served with Mutch from 1980 to 2000 and said he was "always true to his principles no matter what."
"But, he should also be remembered as a man with a delightful sense of humor," Stenehjem said. "He lived a good long life. He served his country and community in the Legislature and should be honored for all of that."
Mutch was born on a farm south of Arvilla, before moving to Kempton with his family. He helped with his father’s bulk fuel business from an early age. At 15, his father died, and right after graduating from Larimore High School as valedictorian in 1943, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
During World War II, he served in Patton’s Third Army and the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned home in 1946, he went back into the oil and petroleum business. He married his wife of 70 years, Dolores, in 1949 and had three children with her: Paul, John and Martha.
Paul Mutch said he hopes people remember “the courage of his main conviction, which was less government, more personal responsibility and, with God’s help, a better world.”