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Duane (Dewey) Boelter's work as a Minneapolis city planner in the 1970s lies at the foundation of the city's grass-roots community organizations that exist today.

Boelter, a former college athlete, physical education teacher and neighborhood outreach worker, died of pneumonia in Des Moines on Sept. 28.

He was 82.

After he graduated from high school in Preston, Minn., he served in the Army in 1945 and 1946.

He played some summer league professional baseball in Fairfax, Minn., and in 1950, the college athlete graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a bachelor's degree in social science and physical education.

By 1953, he had earned a master's degree in education from the University of Minnesota.

He taught school in Illinois and at the old Mound Junior High School, where he also coached.

He came out of the Army "with a real strong sense of justice, a sense of right and wrong," said his stepson, Larry Long of Minneapolis. "He believed that we need to pursue a civil society that really cares for its people."

By the 1960s, Boelter worked in neighborhood development in Minneapolis and became one of three administrators, leading antipoverty centers in Minneapolis.

In the 1970s, he joined the Minneapolis city planner's office, coordinating citizen participation through 11 community groups, said Jan Hively of Minneapolis, who served under Mayor Don Fraser.

Federal law dictated that citizens groups be formed within cities that received federal grants in the fight against poverty. Boelter was chosen to help form the groups.

He often got in trouble with City Council members because he and his staff would be working with the people, essentially establishing grass-roots organizations, said Hively.

She said he stood up for his employees and the citizens being served.

"When you asked his opinion, he would tell you straight," said Hively. "He really cared."

Hively said neighborhood groups today are the successors of the groups that Boelter helped organize.

Though not a trained city planner, "he brought a knowledge of the neighborhoods to the city when the neighborhoods were suspicious of City Hall," said Perry Thorvig of St. Anthony, a retired Minneapolis city planner and former student of Boelter's at Mound.

"He helped us to work better" and "take care of those suspicions," said Thorvig.

He retired from city government in the late 1980s, moving to Fairfield Bay, Ark. In 2002, he moved to Des Moines, remaining active in church and in the Democratic Party.

His wife, Roberta, died in 2005.

In addition to his stepson, he is survived by his stepdaughters, Linda Long of Olathe, Kan., and Chris Maloney of Las Vegas, Nev.; brother, John of Rochester; sister, Elaine Rogers of Staples; three grandchildren and one great granddaughter.

Services will be at noon Thursday at Park Avenue United Methodist Church, 3400 Park Av. S., Minneapolis.