John Howard Duncan

John Howard Duncan, known as “Jay” as a child but “Howard” as an adult, was born in Wellington, Kansas in 1934.  Like a quarter of the town, his father worked for the Santa Fe Railway, and Howard carried a love and fascination for trains throughout his life.  In his youth he set pins in a bowling alley, getting partially paid in black market cigarettes which he gave to his father, and worked as a life guard.  He very much enjoyed his childhood and was grateful for his loving and happy family.

After high school, Howard attended the University of Kansas, but though on a scholarship, was a pretty poor student and dropped out after three semesters.  A positive outcome of those early years at KU was that he met his future wife, Ellen Skinner.  In 1954 he joined the Army, where aptitude testing put Howard on a track for various roles in the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps.  While still enlisted, Howard married Ellen in 1955 and they started life together at Fort Meade, Maryland.  After discharge in 1956 the newlyweds moved to Lawrence, Kansas.  Ellen started teaching in Topeka, and Howard worked as a surveyor for the City of Lawrence, staking out what would soon become Allen Field House.  He also returned to KU and obtained his Civil Engineering degree, and later in life a Master’s in Public Administration.

Howard joined the Kansas Department of Health & Environment in 1958, retiring 40 years later.  He held various senior roles, including Northeast District Environmental Administrator.  During this time, he received several top honors, including the Crumbine Award and the Bedell Award.  He was a licensed engineer, registered sanitarian, certified water supply operator, certified water pollution control facility operator, licensed surveyor, and had board certification as a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers.

Outside of work, Howard participated in numerous groups and activities, including being President of the Kansas Association for Retarded Children, the Kansas Public Health Association, and the Kansas Water Pollution Control Association.  He also served on the Board of Directors of the non-profit Community Living Organization for developmentally disabled adults.  In addition, he served as City Councilman, and then Mayor, of the City of Lecompton, Kansas.  Howard enjoyed participating in community theater at Vassar Playhouse at Pomona Reservoir, and the Lawrence Community Theatre.  He especially relished participating in historical re-enactments about pre-civil war Kansas and wrote and directed several community productions.  Howard also was an active Mason, participating primarily in the Lecompton Lodge, and gained great satisfaction from their various charitable works.

Howard and Ellen had two sons, James Howard Duncan (deceased) and Douglas Alan (Dhon) Duncan.  He has left behind four grandchildren Korwyn (Kate Fasse) Duncan, Molly Duncan, Katlyn (Adam) Pulley, Sam Duncan and three great-grandchildren Jude, Max, and Harrison; Carla Duncan.  He was very much loved and will be very much missed.

The family will greet friends starting at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, September 30, 2022, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence, KS, with the Masonic services starting at 10:00 a.m. Private family burial will follow the service in Maple Grove Cemetery in Lecompton, KS.

Memorial contributions may be made in John’s name to the Lawrence Masonic Lodge #6 and may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

4 Condolences

  1. Rich Ankerholz on September 28, 2022 at 2:23 pm

    I was fortunate enough to have met Howard. He will be missed. His legacy will outlast us all.



  2. Dr. Michelle Martin on September 30, 2022 at 10:23 am

    I met Howard in 2002 at Lecompton during Territorial Days. He welcomed me into the company of the Lecompton Reenactors and was a wonderful person. His energy and passion for sharing history was contagious. He was warm, witty, and kind. While I was working on my PhD Howard was so encouraging and supportive via regular Facebook pep talks. Thank you for being a wonderful friend and for all the good you did during your lifetime Howard, you will be so deeply missed.



  3. Greg and Carol Howard on September 30, 2022 at 7:56 pm

    We are so sorry to hear of your loss of Howard. A great part of Lecompton he and Ellen both were / are. Please know we are praying for your family.



  4. Larry L. Miller on October 30, 2022 at 6:14 pm

    I first became acquainted with Howard in 1976 during what was considered the worst pesticide disaster in Kansas history was taking place in southern Kansas due to illegal spraying of deadly chemicals and carelessness. Being a science teacher, environmentalist, and growing up on a farm I quickly realized that Howard was a very dedicated individual and back then I truly enjoyed getting to know him as he advised and helped many of us that were suffering from the damage caused by the careless and illegal activities.

    I reconnected with Howard a few years ago on Facebook and and had several online visits with him in regard to Kansas history. I know he will be missed by many, and I consider myself very fortunate to have known him. Thinking of his family and all of his friends.



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