William Norton Duesing, known to all as Bill, died at 75 on July 12, 2018 at the Connecticut Hospice in Branford, Connecticut. Bill was born on August 19, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan and was predeceased by his parents, Howard Ernest Duesing and Charlotte Morehouse Duesing.
Bill is survived by his wife, Suzanne Mann Skorpen Duesing and his children: Daniel Ethan Duesing and his wife, Kassie Murphy of Simsbury, Connecticut and Kira Suzanne Skorpen Spinner and her husband James of Middlebury, Connecticut. He will be sorely missed by his six grandchildren: Nicholas, Brian and Charlie Spinner and Zoe, Charlotte and Kingston Duesing.
He also leaves his sister Alice Duesing Sloan and her husband Paul of Alvin, Texas and their children and grandchildren, as well as his brother John Duesing and his wife Pam Clark of West Des Moines, Iowa.
Bill was most at home outdoors in the natural environment. He enjoyed spending time on the Old Solar Farm in his gardens, walking in the woods, and tent camping throughout his life. After graduating from Yale College with a B.A. in Fine Arts, he briefly attended the Yale School of Architecture. As a member of the artists’ group Pulsa, he created large-scale environmental art between 1967 and 1972 in museums and public spaces in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Halifax. Documents from that work were displayed recently at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. His art work with Pulsa is archived at: https://archive.org/search.php?query=pulsa+group. He also created environmental art installations in Lincoln Center, Central Park, and the New Haven Green during the 1970s and 1980s. Bill continued his interest in architecture by teaching solar design at Paier College of Art and the Milden Institute.
For 45 years, as an organic farmer, author, artist and environmental activist, Bill promoted organic agriculture, solar energy, and greater local food sufficiency in Connecticut and the Northeast through lectures, writings, media and community work. With his wife, Suzanne, he grew vegetables, fruits and flowers on their farm, while tirelessly advocating for a local and organic food system.
Bill was the founding president of Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA) in 1982 and served for 12 years as the Executive Director. For many years, Bill served on the NOFA Interstate Council, including a decade as President. The Council awarded Bill the first “Bill Duesing Lifetime Achievement Award” at its 2015 Summer Conference. In his later years, he worked as the CT NOFA Organic Advocate, and as a consultant, mentoring new farmers. Bill shared personal reflections on his nearly four decades of involvement in the organic food movement with CT NOFA in his report about the 41st NOFA Summer Conference, which is available at: http://ctnofa1982.blogspot.com.
For three years, Bill chaired the board of the Community Farm of Simsbury, which trains farmers, educates urban and suburban students, and provides certified organic food to the needy. He was especially proud of his work with Once Upon a Farm in Bethany, Connecticut where he was recently honored by having his name grace the Learning and Education Center there. Bill was awarded the Bronze Medal by the Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut in 2010 and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from PACE (People’s Action for Clean Energy) in 2014. He was a founding board member and past president of the Connecticut Farmland Trust. He also served on the steering committee of the Connecticut Working Lands Alliance. Bill is the author of Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future. These essays, written decades ago, are still relevant today.
Bill’s passion for educating youth was evident in his work as founding chair of the New Haven Ecology project and the establishment of one of the first charter schools in the state. The Common Ground High School continues to successfully educate young people on its farm located in New Haven. In addition, Bill gardened for years with Suzanne and her elementary students in Bridgeport.
For 10 years, Bill wrote and delivered a weekly environmental essay on public radio from Fairfield, CT. Until recently, he could be heard every other week on WPKN radio on the Organic Farm Stand with Guy Beardsley and Richard Hill. Richard has created a legacy piece on Bill’s life which is now available as a podcast on WPKN. The University of Massachusetts library has archived five years of his weekly “Living on the Earth” radio essays and recordings of 14 “Politics of Food” radio shows on this page: http://scua.library.umass.edu/digital/duesing.
A memorial to celebrate Bill’s amazing life will be held at the Common Ground High School in New Haven on September 8, 2018 at 4 pm.
Those who wish to continue Bill’s life’s work can join his many friends and CT NOFA to carry on his legacy. Each year at CT NOFA’s Winter Conference, “The Bill Duesing Organic Living On The Earth Award” will be given to a deserving farmer, organic landscaper, advocate or an organization that demonstrates devotion to Bill’s goals of loving and treating the earth respectfully. If you are inspired by his dedication, his grace and his strength, you can support this award by donating in his honor to Bill Duesing Fund at CT NOFA: The Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut at: bit.ly/billduesingfund.