Duane Lawrence Isham, age 91, passed away peacefully on February 1, 2021 after a short struggle with cancer. He brought love, friendship, and joy to everyone that knew him—and, more than anything, he cared for family and community.
Duane was born in Akron to Donovan and Cretora Isham on July 31, 1929. They predeceased him as did his wife, Joan (née Freitag), and brothers, Jerome and Noel.
Duane attended King and Fairlawn elementary schools in Akron and graduated from John R. Buchtel High School in 1947. He then attended Ohio State University and completed his undergraduate work with a B.S. in Business Administration. In 1953 he received a J.D. from the Ohio State Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the school’s law journal. He then stayed for one year teaching at the law school while waiting to go on active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. He did two years of active service at Perrin Air Force Base in Sherman, TX. Duane joined the Akron law firm of what is now known as Roetzel in 1957 and had a successful career lasting about 50 years. He specialized in corporate and securities law.
His legal presence extended well beyond his private practice. He was a president of the Akron Bar Association as well as the Akron Bar Foundation. In 2007 he was awarded the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law National Alumni Council’s Community Service Award. In 2020 he was thrilled to receive the Sir Thomas More Award, a special honor for lawyers demonstrating outstanding personal integrity, community service, and professional excellence.
Duane’s involvement in the community included serving as chair of the Akron Children’s Hospital Board of Directors from 1985-87 and from 1991-94. He was also a past president of the Akron Community Foundation as well as on the boards of the Red Cross, the Akron Regional Development Board, the Akron Roundtable (of which he was a founder), the Tuscora Park Health & Wellness Foundation (formerly Barberton Citizens Hospital), and the Salvation Army.
Duane was so honored to receive the H. Peter Burg Community Award (2005) and several other area awards. He was an Akronite through and through and never turned down an opportunity to make an impact on his dearly beloved city.
Playing golf with his friends was one of Duane’s greatest joys in life. He belonged first to Fairlawn then to Portage Country Club. He was a finalist for the golf championship of both clubs, winning it twice at Portage (’86 and ’92). He also had longstanding memberships at Sharon and Oakmont (Pittsburgh, PA) country clubs. He was proud to shoot four holes-in-one (two at Fairlawn, two at Portage). He had a wonderful summer of golf this last year, shooting his age regularly—and even shot an eagle in one of the very final rounds he played. He was president of Portage twice (1973 and 2003).
Music was also a vital part of Duane’s life. He was an accomplished piano player and saxophonist, and during his high-school years was the leader of a dance band that played throughout the Akron area.
To say Duane was an avid sports fan would be an understatement. A Buckeye through and through, he had season tickets to Ohio State games since the early 1970s and attended them regularly. His family and friends relished any opportunity to watch sporting events with him—indeed his involvement in the momentum and outcome of any contest could be even more entertaining than the game itself. He also loved watching baseball—and knew Cleveland’s current batting lineup and pitching rotation as well as anyone.
Duane also went to extraordinary lengths to educate and culturally enrich those around him: He took his kids regularly to violin lessons, introduced them to Broadway shows in New York City during several unforgettable trips, and regularly subscribed to performances at E.J. Thomas and other local venues. He never missed a sporting event or concert in which his kids or grandkids were participating.
He was especially close to his family—and spent substantial time in his final years traveling with them to locations such as Chicago, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Key Largo, Boston, the Italian Riviera, and Morocco. He is survived by his son, John, and daughter, Laurie Schueler (Hank). He was an especially loving and attentive grandfather; his two granddaughters, Jane and Sarah, will always miss, remember, and love their “DuDad.”
Duane’s family would like to extend its gratitude to all the caregivers who made his final days so comfortable. In lieu of flowers, he wished that memorial donations be made to local organizations such as Akron Children’s Hospital (akronchildrens.org), Salvation Army of Summit County (oh.salvationarmy.org), or the Tuscora Park Health & Wellness Foundation (barbertoncf.org/give/funds). A celebration of Duane’s life will be announced at a later date.
Services in care of The Billow Funeral Homes and Crematory Fairlawn Chapel 85 N. Miller Road Akron, OH 44333.
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