Former Humboldt teacher publishes life story

HUMBOLDT — Norman Duerr, a former Humboldt teacher and recipient of the 2001 Governor General's Caring Canadian Award for his volunteer work, has published a book detailing his life story.

To Find the Lost Garden: Memories, Travels, Musings and More is a culmination of Duerr’s memories, stories and old travel diaries linked together in a narrative.

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“It’s basically autobiographical and a compilation of writings I’ve done in the past. it’s my story,” Duerr said.

“Originally I wrote this as a family record, that was my intent originally. I just wanted to leave something of my story, my life for the family.”

Born in the later part of the Great Depression in the 1940s, Duerr was raised at a farm in the Fulda area. When he was 10 his father died leaving him, his mother and sister on their own.

 “As a child I was extremely ill, I almost died as a baby,” he said.

“We were poor but I don’t think we knew we were poor. We had love, we had food and those were the important things.”

Duerr would eventually make it to university, which led him to a career in teaching. He would work in the profession for 29 years, 18 spent at Humboldt Collegiate Institute.

In 2001, he received Governor General's Caring Canadian Award, following a trip to Teresina, Brazil for a “Toys for Teresina” campaign, which netted $10,000 worth of toys for the city's children.

Duerr said it took him about three years to write his To Find the Lost Garden, after being inspired by his daughter.

“It was Christmas and she said, ‘I don’t have any gift to give, I don’t have the money to buy you a gift, but I want to give you something to be longer lasting.’ And then she said, ‘I want you to write your memoir.’ That was one motivation,” he said.

“As you age, I think it brings you a certain perspective in life, a lens of time. I think you feel you want to leave something.”

To get the writings published, Duerr connected with Graphic Ad in Humboldt.

“I knew of Graphic Ad here in Humboldt. I said, ‘Do they print books?’ And someone said, ‘Yes, they do.’”

Rather than a percent of sales, Duerr agreed to pay for the process up front.

“I can only hope I sell enough books to break even, it was never my intent to do this as a money making scheme, I just want to break even.”

As fewer steps remained for his book becoming a reality, the more hesitant Duerr said he became.

“It’s almost like opening your heart and letting the world look in, and I thought, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ And then I had reservations about some of the things I included and tributes to myself and so on,” he said. “It was never intended to blow my own horn.”

As a result, he began to take pieces from the book, including the tributes and pictures of himself. He would re-add them after encouragement from others.

Duerr said in reading his book, he hopes people become inspired or challenged.

“From the feedback I’ve received so far from people, those ideas have been reinforced. One reader said it’s a story of love for life itself. [They] described it as powerful, a page turner, almost unbelievable adventures.”

In Humboldt, copies of To Find the Lost Garden can be purchased from Causeway Natural Health, Sobeys, Main Street Music and Books and St. Peter’s Abbey.

A total of 248 copies have been printed, with about 60 claimed so far.

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