Duane Sommerness, 1941

PEORIA, Ariz. — A former longtime medical superintendent of the Traverse City State Hospital has died in Arizona. Dr. M. Duane Sommerness was 95 at the time of his death, Dec. 3, in Peoria, Ariz.

Born in Columbus, N.D., on Sept. 5, 1918, Dr. Sommerness was the son of Martin D. Sommerness and Louise Hansch Sommerness.

He earned his first bachelor’s degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and a second bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota Medical School. He subsequently earned his M.D. degree from Temple University in Philadelphia. Following service in the United States Army Air Force he completed a residency in psychiatry at the famed Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kans. There he married Trudy Titus.

Upon leaving the Menninger Foundation in 1950 he served as chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Dakota Medical School and, at the same time, as clinical director of the state hospital in Fergus Falls, Minn. In 1956 he became medical superintendent of the Traverse City State Hospital, a position in which he served until his resignation in 1972.

During his time at the Traverse City State Hospital, he oversaw the construction of the completely privately funded All-Faiths Chapel, as well as the Arnell Engstrom School for mentally ill children. During his tenure, he increased the number of physicians on the hospital staff from seven to 34. The concomitant increase in personalized patient care reduced the number of patients from 3,000 to 1,300.

Dr. Sommerness served as an associate clinical professor in the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University, as well as a board member of the Northwest Michigan Symphony, the Northwestern Michigan Fair, the Salvation Army, the Scenic Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the North Central Michigan Comprehensive Health Planning Council. He was also an active member of Rotary International and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. He received the Distinguished Service Award from Luther College in 1966.

He was preceded in death by his parents; his sisters, Yvonne and Esther; and his wife, Trudy.

He is survived by his wife, Margaret, of Sun City, and his son, Martin, of Flagstaff.

Graveside services, conducted by the Rev. Kara Joy Stewart of Living Christ Lutheran Church, were held Dec. 9, at Sunland Memorial Park in Sun City, Ariz.

Memorials may be sent to the M. Duane Sommerness endowment at the University of North Dakota.

Duane Summerness