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Family: Markesan superintendent was healthy before battle with COVID-19

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 6:47 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2020 at 10:57 PM CDT
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MARKESAN, Wis. (WBAY) - The superintendent of the Markesan School District passed away Wednesday night after a lengthy battle with COVID-19.

A memorial to Duane Bark was created outside the elementary school in Markesan with flowers, balloons and written cards, with the message “Barkstrong” on the fence. That’s where we caught up with Bark’s son Brian.

“The man he was, the values that he taught my brother, my sister, a lot of the students, he’s taught the same values to. He truly cared about other people first," Brian Bark said.

Duane Bark was with the district the past 10 years, serving as both superintendent and athletic director. Posts by the Trailways Conference say Bark battled the virus for three months.

“Duane left an impact on me and many others and I will miss him greatly,” reads a tweet from the Trailways Conference commissioner. “Please pray for his family, friends, colleagues, and everyone in Hornet Nation.”

Bark’s passing came after an extended hospital stay that started on July 23 and included time on a ventilator. The Daily Dodge reports Bark was 61 years old.

Family members say they’re grateful for all of the community support but they also want to stress that Bark had no underlying health conditions prior to contracting COVID-19.

“He was a healthy guy. He exercised. He took this seriously. He wore masks wherever he went, but there’s still a chance to come into contact with it, and he did,” Bark’s son said.

Middle and high school principal John Koopman reacted, “You hate to see that happen to anybody, and you hate to see anybody get sick, but when you have somebody that is a staple of the community and a pillar like Duane was, you hope it really opens people’s eyes to what needs to be done and the severity of what’s going on right now."

In September, Action 2 News reported that Markesan Public Schools were taking a “fall break” due to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Students were asked to quarantine at that time. The school district asked parents to be more vigilant screening their children for symptoms and keeping them home if they’re sick.

The district says it’s offering help for students who need it, and plans for a more permanent memorial will be discussed.

“Duane was a great man. Humble, dedicated, generous, thoughtful, all of the above. So, just as a person, it’s a huge loss,” interim district administrator Jason Breaker said.

The school district has a COVID-19 dashboard that provides updates on students and staff in quarantine. CLICK HERE for the information.

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