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DeYoung's Life Journey Led Him to Leopold

Ken DeYoung pictured with Buddy Huffaker

At 93, Ken DeYoung’s “life journey” has persuaded him to focus his personal legacy on the land ethic. His long, dynamic career, which included time in the U.S. Navy, years as a professor of psychology, and decades in the private international sector consulting businesses in employee management and development, led Ken to ultimately see the land ethic and Leopold—the Aldo Leopold Foundation—as where he wanted his estate to flourish


In the summer of 2022, Ken committed much of his estate to the Aldo Leopold Foundation through our legacy-giving program, the Good Oak Society, of which Dr. DeYoung is now a permanent member. Foundation executive director Buddy Huffaker and his partner Marcy Huffaker traveled to Kettle River, MN, to present DeYoung with a Good Oak Society plaque. The Huffakers visited with him on a lovely August evening, watching the sunset over the farm where his wife had grown up, and talking about the spiritual dangers of supposing that “breakfast comes from the grocery.”  Earlier that summer Ken suffered a broken hip, so he pointed out the various points of interest across the farm from the porch with a wealth of detail that clearly came from decades of loving the family farm.


Another broken hip (the other one) delayed our communications, but Ken is well on his way to full recovery, and in robust good health.


DeYoung’s commitment to the Good Oak Society followed his discovery, later in life, of the Shack, A Sand County Almanac, and the Aldo Leopold Foundation. DeYoung became fascinated by the human side of the land ethic, the “people to each other” side of Leopold’s professed interests.


“As I learned more and more, I became intrigued.  I soon read an early version of the Almanac and got a lot out of it. I had been involved in other environmental orgs, but I liked this one's more personal nature. The more I learned, the more I liked it. I visited the Shack many times. then the new headquarters several times.”


Originally from Sparta, Michigan, DeYoung lives now on his Kettle River, Minnesota farm. Ken met his late wife, Ruth, in 1954, while he was assisting the decommission of his Navy ship in Bremerton, Washington, where Ruth was visiting friends. The couple soon married and eventually had four children.


His “discovery” of the Shack wasn’t without glitches. DeYoung had set out one day in the late 1990s to explore and learn more about the Wisconsin-famous human-made canal near Portage, Wisconsin, that hastened the last leg of boat journeys from Lake Michigan, down the Fox River, to the Wisconsin River (the name “Portage” refers to this miles-long span, where explorers & traders had to carry their boats—the canal eliminated much of the portage).


While in Portage on this adventure, Ken was vaguely aware that the famous Leopold Shack was in the vicinity and his curiosity again got the better of him.

“I have no recall how I learned about Aldo and The Shack, but I knew it was near Baraboo. So, I asked Portage people how to find it. Never heard of it, said most. One said he thought it was on a road whose name I can't remember, but he didn't know where that road was. I left Portage, heading for the Truck Stop on I 94, where I planned to sleep in my camper (as I had done many times before).
On my way out of town, I spotted the sign that said its road name was the one I wanted (Levee). I turned around and drove on that road maybe 15 miles without seeing the Shack. I turned around and headed back, still looking for it. I had my dog with me, and we both needed to answer the call of nature. I pulled off the north side of the road, where there was a simple wooden gate. We got back in my pickup, and I thought of asking the residents of the house more or less across the road if they knew how to find the Shack… (I'm glad to this day I didn't do that.)  Much later, I found The Shack, and visited many times. Then, of course, I visited the new [Leopold] Foundation headquarters many times. Persistence pays.”

Buddy remarked about how Ken’s life is a valuable model for how to remain committed to the land, “Ken’s diverse professional career reveals that it isn’t about what you do, or where you do it, that leads to a land ethic, it is about keeping the land in your head and in your heart that matters.”

We thank you, Ken, for your humbling gift to the foundation and we welcome you into the Good Oak Society! We look forward to your next visit to the Shack and Leopold Center once your hips are back to one hundred percent! We’re reserving the loveliest of sunny spring afternoons just for you.