Wayne E. Prince


Former Duluth resident Wayne E. Prince, 85, died peacefully Sunday May 31, 2020 after a yearlong battle with Alzheimer’s. His loving wife Roberta and son Wayne were by his side.

Wayne Earl Prince was born on February 13, 1935 in Wilton MN. He was the eldest of five children born to Earl and Mary (Toots) Prince. At a young age, Wayne moved from Bemidji to Duluth so his father could take a job at the US Steel Mill. His family lived in many locations throughout the city including West Duluth and Fond du Lac. Wayne’s favorite was a home along the St Louis River half way between New Duluth and Fond du Lac. It was there that he learned to shoot. Wayne would grab his .22 rifle and head across the river in his boat to hunt the big game rabbit or the often-elusive squirrel. Occasionally he’d throw in a porcupine for good measure. Wayne enjoyed spending the summers out on his Uncle Bill and Aunt Bethel’s farm near Bemidji. While there, he learned the value of an honest days work, a trait he would carry with him all of his life.

At 16 years of age, and a forged document in hand, Wayne enlisted in the Marines and reached the rank of Sergeant. It was at Camp Pendleton where he outshone others in his unit especially in marksmanship. One evening while on guard duty, a buck jumped out of the busch. Instinctively, Wayne threw up his rifle and fired making a clean shot. After the initial excitement wore off, the dread set in. Wayne remembered that all ammo had to be inventoried. Each and every bullet he had on him needed to be counted and checked back in. Luckily another unit was returning from desert drills where a buddy of his swapped out his empty casing for a live round, saving him an awkward explanation and possible reprimand by his C.O. Wayne eventually shipped out to Korea where he received several medals of honor near the end of the of the Korean conflict. In 1955 Wayne returned home but remained enlisted as a reserve in the US Coast Guard for an additional five years.  It was during this time that found Wayne seduced by the charm, finesse, and the enchanted kiss of a beautiful young woman one evening under a corner streetlamp. This started a 63-year love affair where on December 21, 1957; Wayne married the love of his life, Roberta Joyce Carlson at the Carlton County Courthouse. Wayne and Roberta went on to have seven children. Wayne enjoyed having a large family and always said he was delighted each time “just one more” would come along.  Wayne was a member of and for a brief period served as deacon at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Duluth. In 1959 Wayne and Roberta lost an infant son to SIDS and in 1995, a daughter to a brain aneurysm. This was a difficult time for them but with their love for each other, and a strong faith in the lord, they were able to overcome their profound loss.

Wayne was not a stranger to hard work. He worked many jobs including the Railroad and the US Steel Mill both in Duluth. After the mill closed, Wayne went on to form Prince Construction where over the years he employed his son, son in laws, nephews, and most of his grandsons at some time or another. Even his daughters worked with him at different times. Wayne took pride in his work and expected nothing less than perfection out of those who worked for him. This was the reason that most were fired multiple times throughout the day but were always hired back the next morning. Family members remember this time fondly through the life skills learned and the examples he set. Even after his retirement in 2003, he would visit the site of a Kilgore Brothers project (three of his grandsons) and would continue directing the daily work until HE got fired and was sent home.

Wayne loved the outdoors. He was an avid hunter and fisherman. Fall would find him up north bird hunting or getting ready for the deer season. In 1966 Wayne was fortunate enough to be able to take a moose-hunting trip into Canada with his best friend Francis O’Connell where he was able to shoot a large bull moose. Wayne also leased a parcel of land just off the Nemadji River where along with the grandsons, built a hunting shack that over time was expanded to accommodate up to 12 people. An annual BBQ is held there each January that the entire family looks forward to attending. Wayne still holds the record for the largest buck taken out of that area.

Wayne found many other activities over the years to keep him busy. In the 50’s and 60’s Wayne had a slew of motorcycles and fast cars. He gave these up after suffering a severe accident that almost claimed his life, where his car went off the Fond du Lac curve just below the Hwy 23 Boy Scout Landing Overlook. That didn’t deter his need for speed though. The 70’s found Wayne racking up a garage full of first-place trophies racing snowmobiles. During the 80’s he enjoyed riding dirt bikes through the back trails. In the 90’s, Wayne’s passion for Harleys saw his return to the open road for the first time since having one back in the 50’s.  After retiring, Wayne would plan a yearly bike trip with friends or family that took him all across the US and Canada. No matter the weather you could catch a glimpse of Wayne riding his favorite Harley around town or across the country.

Wayne is survived by his wife Roberta Prince, daughters Christine (John) Kilgore, Vicki (Fred) DuPuis, Sharon (Patrick) Johnston, Jerri Pike, son Wayne Prince, sisters Margeen Olson, Sandy (Thomas) Stepp, Linda (John) Plaggemeyer, and brother Gary (Sherry) Prince. Wayne also had 12 grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren with the youngest, Wyatt Lee Akervik born just four days before his passing.   His father Earl Prince, Mother Mary Kuefler, Son Wayde Alan Prince, daughter Leslie Kay Lustig and grandson Tyler Mattsfield precede Wayne in death.

We’d like to thank the staff at Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation for the wonderful care he received. A special thanks to Christine Kilgore for her patience and hard work.

A celebration of life is scheduled for July 19th 2020 from 1 to 4pm at the Duluth Cremation Society of Minnesota located at 4100 Grand Avenue.  State guidelines currently allow 40 people in the funeral home at a given time.

Wayne was proud of his military service and was always seen wearing his Marine Corp Korean War ball cap while out and about. He was always grateful for the occasional “thank you for your service” and hand shake he would receive from people while wearing it.  Wayne will take one last ride on his Harley, to be driven by his oldest grandson Jamie Kilgore, and be interred with full honor guard at the Veterans Military Cemetery in Saginaw Minnesota in a private ceremony the end of July.

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