Friends remember Fred “Duane” Dailey’s calm presence, his simple kind of warmth, a quiet sense of humor and a contagious laugh that shook his whole body.
He was a born journalist and keen observer of life. He loved to write, to communicate and to photograph.
Dailey died Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Boone Hospital Center.
In 2019, he wrote an article with Missouri Photo Workshop co-director David Rees, giving a “history lesson” about his life. Much of the following biographical information is drawn from that article:
Dailey was born Nov. 23, 1935, in South Lineville, Missouri, a small town hugging the Iowa border. The article said he grew up on his family’s 640-acre farm, with beef cattle, vegetable gardens, hogs and hard work. There, Dailey developed a dedication to the agricultural story, something he would carry with him his entire life.
He attended MU, where he studied agricultural journalism. After graduation, Dailey joined the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant and worked in artillery training for two years.
Dailey returned to MU and put his dream of agricultural reporting to work as the 4-H editor for MU Extension. He used photos and words to talk about people using innovative farming technology, turning science jargon into stories comprehensible by the average farmer.
At the height of his Extension work, Dailey hired many students to work in his darkroom and process the photographs he made.
“It was a whirlwind experience,” Dave Marner, one of Dailey’s darkroom assistants, recalled. “I saw some of the most technically brilliant photography at the time I was learning about photojournalism.”
“It’s almost like the aesthetic he had is more seen and understood now than it was then,” said Sarah Leen, another darkroom assistant and former director of photography for National Geographic Partners. “It was subdued, a little more ‘fine-arty.’ He was ahead of his time in a way. Now I see it.”
Outside of his Extension position, Dailey spent his time photographing Missouri mules. In the early 1980s, he traveled all over the state to document the stories of mules and their owners. He photographed more than 100 people and mules, creating a visual history of the animal.
“He was different from news people in a lot of places, always chasing the big stories,” said Rita Reed, professor emeritus of photojournalism in the Missouri School of Journalism. “Duane liked to tell the stories of just day-to-day lives of people who worked and lived their lives and did things that needed to be done in the world. He liked to tell those stories, and he was committed to teaching others how to tell those stories.”
Dailey wrote a weekly newspaper column, “Hometown Boy,” for small newspapers across Missouri and was a regular contributor to Missouri Ruralist Magazine. His last column was published only six days before his death, Marner said.
“He was a fixture,” Marner said. “Every newspaper in the state of Missouri has run Duane Dailey stories for 55 years. You’re never gonna see that again.”
In 1961, Dailey participated in the Missouri Photo Workshop, where midcareer photographers document small-town Missouri life.
“He credits that with changing his life,” current workshop co-director Jim Curley said, “the way he photographed, the way he thought about photojournalism and photo stories.”
Inspired by the workshop, Dailey and photojournalist Bill Kuykendall created the Agricultural Editor’s Photo School. At the photo school, agricultural journalists — mostly editors and writers — learned how to shoot documentary-style photographs and incorporate them into their publications, Kuykendall said.
Kuykendall said Dailey deserves a tremendous amount of credit for cultivating documentary-style reporting in the agricultural press, an approach he said redefined standards and processes in that field.
“That would not have happened, I believe, without Duane’s influence,” Kuykendall said.
In 1986, the pair returned to the Missouri Photo Workshop to take over for founders Cliff and Vi Edom.
“When he ran the workshop, he did it with good humor and a kindness to the faculty and students that worked there,” Reed, who worked as workshop faculty, said.
Those who knew Dailey described him as the spirit of the workshop, always offering a smile and knowledge learned through experience. He was central to the workshop’s mission of teaching photographers the value of rural stories.
“He had the powerful ability to observe,” said Brian Kratzer, current workshop co-director and Columbia Missourian director of photography, “observe agricultural life, rural life and help many students along the way see and feel the powers of observation themselves.”
Dailey became an emeritus co-director after his tenure. Over his lifetime, he would spend 37 weeks at the workshop, the most of any person other than the Edoms, Curley said.
“I’ll always see him across the breakfast table, putting raisins in his oatmeal,” Kuykendall said. “Those were golden moments, when the world was at peace and all that lay ahead was a whole spectrum of possibilities. We’d start the day never knowing what was coming, but it was always exploring it with Duane.”
Dailey is survived by daughters Janet Burke and Lucinda Dailey; siblings Elijah Dailey and Deanna Schreffler; grandson Samuel Lawrence; and special friend Linda Myers.
Memorial services will be arranged at a later date. Arrangements are under the direction of Roberson Funeral Home. Online condolences may be left at www.robersonfuneralhome.com.
Donations may be made to the F. Duane Dailey Student Enrichment fund in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.