Unassuming Bell hopes he's 'worthy' of top citizen honor

Doug Boock
Duane Bell stands Monday near a truck at his Bell Trucking business, a firm that he’s often used to give back to a community he appreciates. The Galva Chamber of Commerce showed its appreciation of Bell himself on Saturday night, giving him its annual Citizen of the Year award.

Moments after Duane Bell was handed the Citizen of the Year award by the Galva Chamber of Commerce on Saturday night, at least two people wanted to hear what he had to say.

“Speech! Speech!” they cried in unison.

They’re still waiting. And it’s not likely to change real soon.

“I’m not good at giving speeches,” he said Monday. “I took typing (in high school) because I couldn’t write very good.”

Bell, who appreciates the honor, was touched by the outpouring of support he got from audience members Saturday night. But he’d probably have been fine, too, if they’d just mailed the plaque to him.

“I’d rather be low key,” said Bell, 70, softly. “When you give someone something, it’s nice when they appreciate it and they let you know that, but I don’t need any fanfare or anything.”

Bell’s honor comes largely because that’s the way - without fanfare - he’s served the community. He’s quietly donated his time and his resources, often through his Bell Trucking business, to help others in need. Whether it’s donating gravel, trucking service, money or even hog roasting duties, Bell’s given back to the community - one he says he owes a lot to. It goes back 75 years, when Bell’s father, Strauss, started the then-fledgling business.

“Everybody’s always treated us awful good,” he said. “The people of the community always helped Dad out an awful lot, and they’ve helped me, too.

“I’ve told my kids we wouldn’t be here unless the community hadn’t helped us,” he added. "Things were tough on Dad when he started. People helped him out with money and by being loyal customers."

A 1956 Galva High School graduate, Bell’s never strayed from his roots. He admits he wanted to sell his trucking business at one point - “I always wanted to farm,” he explains - but he’s stayed in the same community that’s left its footprint in his tracks, much like he’s left his in its. That approach has served him well.

“I try to be real honest with everybody,” he explained. “A lot of people aren’t very hard to satisfy, some take a little more. I’ve always told my kids it’s a lot easier to keep the old customers than to try to find new ones.”

Married to wife Sue for 52 years, the couple has four sons, Steve, Richard, Ronnie and Chris. They also have six grandchildren and some great-grandchildren.

Asked how he’d like to be remembered, Bell responds in his typical soft tone.

“Just being a kind person, thoughtful of others,” he said. “That’s the way you’ve got to be - treat everybody the way you want to be treated.”

So far, that’s held him in good stead. It’s not likely to change, either.

Now taking his place alongside others who have been named Citizen of the Year - perhaps the highest honor in the city - Bell will forever be listed among winners of the award. He won’t brag about it. He takes it humbly.

“I hope I’m worthy of it,” he said.