Remembering 1967 Eagle River World Champion Duane Frandsen

Duane Frandsen with trophy
This image of Duane Frandsen from snowmobile inventor Carl Eliason in 1967 was posted on the World Championship Derby Complex Facebook page.

Duane Frandsen, a legend from snowmobile racing’s early golden era, passed on to the heavens recently in his adoptive hometown of Mesa, Arizona. He was 87.

Frandsen was one of the most notable racers from snowmobiling’s early times. He was particularly strong in cross-country racing, but historians may best know him as the winner of the 1967 Eagle River World Championship Snowmobile Derby. The Wisconsin native led the final from the lifting of the green flag through the waving of the checkered on his Ski-Doo with an experimental Rotax 494 engine, according to the Of Ice & Engines history book on the Derby. The 1967 event was a major breakthrough for the Derby and snowmobile racing in general, thanks to national television and mainstream magazine coverage plus a crowd of 20,000 people on hand.

Beyond that high-profile victory, though, Frandsen was also the USSA Driver of the Year in 1970 and won many races across the Upper Midwest and into Canada before he retired from active racing in 1972. When he was inducted into the racing-focused Snowmobile Hall of Fame in 1992, he was noted as “One of the most durable, active and talented snowmobile racing stars of the 1960’s and early 1970’s, Duane Frandsen of Pembine, Wisconsin, was a power in both cross-country and oval racing. He brought a combination of persistence, driving talent, cool judgment and superb mechanical ability to racing setting an example for many racers who followed in his footsteps.”

Duane Frandsen racing
Duane Frandsen racing to the 1967 World Championship, used with permission from the book Of Ice & Engines, available at the Derby Complex

He went on to become very successful in business, as you’ll see in his obituary.

The sport of snowmobile racing has lost a lot of its early legends in recent years, as that generation of racers crosses into their 80s and 90s.

Here is Frandsen’s official obituary:

Duane Frandsen

MESA, Ariz. — Duane A. Frandsen, 87, of Mesa, Ariz., passed away on April 29, 2023.

Duane Frandsen
Duane Frandsen

He was born in Luck, Wis. on June 22, 1935. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, MaryAnne.

Duane’s working career began on the railroad as a depot dispatch agent where he was a telegraph operator. The railroad brought him to Pembine, Wis. He spent the next 35 years as an entrepreneur in many businesses in the Pembine area. He had a gas station, snowmobile dealership, laundromats, school buses, land development business, Century 21 Real Estate office, and mini storage units. Starting in 1986, he opened seven Little Caesars Pizza stores in central Wisconsin. He retired in 1997 and moved to Mesa. Duane served on the board and as president of Apache Wells Golf Club in Mesa.

Duane competed in snowmobile racing. He raced all over in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Canada from 1964 to 1972. He won the title of World Champion in 1967 in Eagle River, Wis. along with many other region and division titles. In 1992, he was inducted into the Snowmobile Hall of Fame in St. Germain, Wis.

He was an avid golfer with seven holes-in-one to his credit. Duane passed his competitive nature for sports down to his children, grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren who he loved to watch compete.

Duane was passionate about everything he did in his family and professional life. He was respected and loved by his children and grandchildren who looked to him for advice, wisdom, and his steadfast love.

He is survived by his wife, MaryAnne; children, Scott (Jean) Frandsen of Edgar, Wis. and Jeri Frandsen (Jim Rhoades) of Mesa; grandchildren, Craig (Sara) Frandsen of Owatonna, Minn., Kristy Frandsen of Tacoma, Wash., Brian (Sara) Frandsen of Rib Falls, Wis., Kirk (Shanel) Seidel of Dunbar, Wis., Angela (Robert) Garrett of Mesa; great-grandchildren, Ryan, Autumn, Kendra (Craig), Taylor (Kristy), Colton, Caden (Brian), Ryker, Ember (Kirk), Katie, Tyler (Angela). He is also survived by his brother, Dennis (Jeanette) Frandsen in Rush City, Minn.

A Celebration of Life will take place at a later date in Luck.

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