Rotary Club of Faribault

Posted by Mike Randleman

Reprinted with permission from the Faribault Daily News

 

To some, he's a dedicated veterinarian. To some, a world traveler. To some, a proud Rotarian.

To all, he's Richard "Dick" Huston. There's no one way to define a man who's traveled to all seven continents, who's helped settle lawsuits dealing with cattle or who's been on the Minnesota Timberwolves' private plane.

Somehow the 1,000-piece puzzle comes together to create a mosaic of a man who won't let life come to him. Click on the "Read More" link below for the rest of the article.

 

Walking for water

Huston, 82, grew up in Benson, Minnesota. For as complex are his experiences, his upbringing was simpler.

"I went to a one-room school. One teacher, eight grades," Huston said, noting his school was one of the last of its kind. "I grew up in a house that didn’t have running water. We carried water for washing clothes, taking baths, cooking, cleaning, everything for the first 11 years of my life."

Huston had no qualms about his upbringing, saying he was "never bored" as "there was always something to do."

Coinciding with a burgeoning work ethic was a thirst for higher education, which he continues to quench to this day. That's without ever having a direct example to follow.

"My parents had an eighth-grade education, but they worked hard," Huston said. "They bought a farm, we lived on the farm. I was the first of any of my cousins to get a four-year degree. Education is a huge, huge thing."

Huston supported himself after graduating high school. He spent two years at St. Olaf College before making his way to the University of Minnesota to attend veterinary school.

"Most of the work that I do is in the dairy industry," Huston said. "I've hung around cows all my life. Still like 'em."

Huston's first post-graduation stop was in 1963 in Marshall, Minnesota.

"I graduated one day, my first son was born the next day and I started to move stuff to my job the next day," Huston said.

After six months in Marshall, Huston sought a new opportunity. He packed his bags to come to the Faribault Veterinary Clinic.

Huston helped grow the practice to six veterinarians before he left in 1984 to begin a consulting career that he still maintains.

His work is primarily litigation support.

Perhaps a feed purchaser has a pricing dispute with a supplier or a product is faulty. Huston offers consultation for the two disputing sides and will provide expert testimony in court if it escalates into a lawsuit.

Most of Huston's courtroom experiences don't particularly move the needle. But it's hard to forget when an eccentric Kentucky judge blew smoke rings at him during testimony.

Especially when more was to come.

"So the judge says ‘Well, I’ve known Doc for about 30 years. We play some poker on Friday, we golf on Wednesdays, but I don’t think that’s going to cloud my judgment. I’ll be back in a couple minutes,' Huston began. "He comes back and says ‘That cow’s worth $15,000. "I've never seen anything like that."

On a whim

There was a time Huston hadn't left the Western Hemisphere, but he made quick work of getting out to see the world as soon as he entered adulthood.

"I did something that was kind of, when I think back on it, it was kind of nuts," Huston admitted. "I was studying for finals my freshman year in the spring. The guy I was studying with said ‘You know what, we should go to Europe.’ and I said ‘Well let’s do that.’"

And it was done.

The duo hitchhiked to Montreal where they set sail to England. The two went separate ways and Huston made his way to a Volkswagen factory in Germany. He spent several days exploring the country before bringing the car to a boat in Amsterdam.

It took the help of a friendly secretary at the U.S. Embassy and the help of his parents to sell off one of Huston's cows to wire money overseas, but Huston made it back home.

His willingness to jump into the deep end foreshadowed his temporary plunge into politics. A true Renaissance man, Huston threw his hat into the ring as a Republican candidate in the 1986 state Senate race.

Huston campaigned against a 16-year incumbent. He went on to lose the race, though his party won the spot in 1990.

"Republicans really wanted him out of there. So I thought I’d be an OK choice to challenge him," Huston said. "I had a lot of help. Volunteers that came out and helped with that effort. But we lost."

Huston is a man who takes matters into his own hands, but he learned there are things he can't control.

He and his first wife of 34 years divorced, which in the wake of heartbreak freed him to further explore other pursuits.

"So during that time I went on a couple missions, Christian veterinary missions," Huston said. "I've gone on seven or eight missions now to Bolivia, India, Vietnam, Romania, Africa. So I enjoyed doing those."

In 2017, Huston was in Kenya. He worked with four veterinarians to treat and inject nearly 10,000 goats and sheep per person.

Huston's palette has diversified as a result of his travels.

"I never felt unsafe. There was food that I wasn’t prepared for," Huston said. "Mongolians, in the summertime, they don’t have any meat because they don’t have storage. And they don’t have vegetables because it’s so dry. And these are semi-nomadic people so you end up eating yak milk, yak cheese, yak yogurt, yak vodka."

Travel companion

Huston remarried Glenda Taylor, the ex-wife of Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, in 1998.

Glenda Taylor had a minority share in the team, which granted Huston a behind-the-curtains look at an NBA franchise. Names like Hall of Famer Kevin McHale or NBA and television veteran, Jim Petersen, became friends.

'So we went to all those games. It was fun, we could eat in the press room, meet the players," Huston said. "We would go on at least two, once in a while three, road trips with the team."

Just traveling from one NBA city to the other didn't cut it for Huston.

"That was a really good period in my life. Glenda and I traveled a lot. We went to all seven continents," Huston said.

That does include Antarctica, which Huston noted was no colder than many of Minnesota's worst days.

"We went with National Geographic. It was a really good way to go," Huston said. "They had naturalists on board and they would go on the land with you. We’d walk around with the penguins and they’d tell us what to notice. I actually saw a penguin hatch, which was pretty neat."

The other end of their travel spectrum brought Huston and Glenda to Africa. Each had been to the continent several times, but this time in 2010 brought on tragedy.

Glenda fell ill while in Cairo, Egypt and died from heart failure.

"That was the most difficult time in my entire life," Huston lamented. "She was clearly the best person I’ve ever known. We had such a good time. It was a tough week. And tough after I got back, too."

A fire still burns within

Huston did his best to keep the motor running. He continued to travel and is proud of the legacy of philanthropy that lives on in the Glenda Taylor Huston Scholarship of Courage at the University of Minnesota Medical Foundation.

Huston's own philanthropy is evident in his co-sponsoring of the Class of 1963 Legacy Fund with the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

During a difficult time in his life, Huston found a way to the summit.

After a group safari trip to Kenya in 2014, Huston, at 77, went on his own to Tanzania to ascend Mount Kilimanjaro.

"It was hard. Five days up and two days down," Huston said. "You have to go with a licensed guide and he also has people he takes up."

Huston found love again with his current wife, Nancie. She fit the prerequisite of having a passport handy and a willingness to keep up with his active lifestyle.

"He goes skydiving every five years, I believe he’s going to go now. He’s done three or four tandem jumps so far," said Huston's son, Steven. "He plans on going every five years I think until he’s 120 he says. He’s got a good sense of humor."

Huston's children also include daughter Karen and sons Chris and Tim.

Nancie and Dick returned from a stay in Cuba this winter with a summer trip to Germany already in the books. The trip is part of a cultural exchange with the Rotary Club, of which Huston has been a member for nearly a decade.

Huston was the Faribault Rotary Club president for 2015-16. He was named the club's Rotarian of the Year in 2017 and he's currently the membership chair.

He is also active with the South Central College Foundation and board, as well as BBBS of Southern Minnesota and the River Bend Nature Center.

Murray Hanson, a friend of Huston's and a Rotary Club member, estimates Huston brings in a new member about every six weeks at a breakneck pace in comparison to clubs nationally. It's helped keep the Faribault club near level at 62 members.

Added Faribault Rotary club president, Keith Kramer: "When I think about Dick, when he does something, he does it all the way. He’s always asking me about different parts of the club and how we can improve it and what we can do. He’s always the first one willing to jump in and help on a project. He’s a great leader."

Huston continues to work part-time along with his work in Rotary. He enjoys photography, spending time with his dog, Reagan, or working on his farm, which boasts trees he and students from Jefferson Elementary School planted in 2018.

"For a guy who’s 82 now, I don’t think anyone’s told him," Hanson said. "He hasn’t really slowed down. He’s still been skiing in the mountains, doing things most people would’ve given up by now. He’s always on the go."

Huston's checked off more bucket list items than most could ever hope for. That's not to say there aren't things he'd do differently, or decisions he'd reconsider.

But he's proud of who he's become as a result of his winding path that's taken him from Benson, Minnesota, to Africa's highest point, and all stops in between.

"There are still things I would’ve done different," Huston said. "One of my other philosophies is that mistakes you make don’t define you, it’s how you deal with those mistakes afterward."

Huston's impact as a person is clear-cut to Hanson.

"It’s one of those things that’s part of his personality, just always willing to joke with you but he has that committed, serious side," Hanson said. "It’s like the service above self that we talk about in Rotary; that’s the definition of his life."