Roughly 200 West Marin residents showed up Sunday evening in Toby’s Feed Barn to honor Duane Irving, who died of a heart attack July 19 at the age of 75.

A  succession of residents related their memories of Duane for the crowd, and several remarked on his fondness for ice cream.

Duane’s parents had owned Halleck Creek Ranch in Nicasio where he spent much of his youth. A “Last Roundup” pamphlet, which was given out at the event, noted Duane “attended the little red school house in Nicasio [and was] a member of the last graduating class.”

Former Marin County Supervisor Gary Giacomini (left) lauded Duane’s vision in dedicating land on his ranch to the Halleck Creek Riding Club for people with disabilities. (Photo by Linda Petersen, West Marin Citizen)

At San Rafael High, Duane was an excellent football and especially baseball player, and after graduation joined the Marine Corps.

Following four years in the Marines, Duane broke horses for Bud Farley, whose ranch was later flooded by Nicasio Reservoir, and was game manager and cattle boss for Doc Ottenger, whose land would become part of the Point Reyes National Seashore.

At the request of the late Olema Valley rancher Boyd Stewart, Duane helped establish the Morgan Horse Farm within the National Seashore and subsequently worked in the park’s Roads and Trails Department.

Emcee Cindy Goldfield introduces her mother Joyce, Duane’s companion for many years, who paid an emotional tribute to Duane.

Many West Marin residents knew Duane best for his involvement in Halleck Creek Riding Club. For more than 30 years, he, Joyce Goldfield, and many volunteers helped people with disabilities gain self-confidence and enjoy rugged terrain on horseback.

People who had served as volunteers to lead the riders and people who had been riders themselves both told of their appreciation of Duane.

Xerxes Whitney (left), who was born with cerebral palsy, said he lived on the same hill as Joyce when she started the Riding Club, and “I was one of her first recruits.” (Photo by Linda Petersen, West Marin Citizen)

Despite some difficulties with speech and the use of his legs, Xerxes has developed into a first-rate athlete and now teaches tennis, as well as writes poetry.

He and Duane had played basketball against each other and held nothing back, including “sharp elbows,” Xerxes said. “Duane didn’t care if you could talk or walk,” Xerxes added. He cared about the person.

Perhaps the most-poignant tribute to Duane was offered by a young  woman with Down’s Syndrome. With unexpected eloquence, she described how much she valued Duane’s encouragement and support. Then speaking directly to Joyce, she said that Duane still sees her and loves her. By this point, I like many others in the Feed Barn had tears in my eyes.