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Politicos, songs fill Verne A. Duncan Elementary School

Several surprise guests came Sunday to the 80th birthday party of Verne Duncan, a Milwaukie resident who was state superintendent from 1975 to 1989 and a state senator from 1997 to 2003.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: GRACE DIDWAY - Verne Duncan guest-directs the new North Clackamas Community Choir in its debut performance Sunday.Duncan remains active in local politics, and as a widely respected moderate Republican, he often moderates local debates between candidates.

by: PHOTO COURTESY: GRACE DIDWAY - Celebrating Verne Duncan's 80th birthday, Duncan is pictured with his wife, Donna, in the front row. Back row: son-in-law Brian Kirk, daughter Annette Kirk, daughter Chris Didway and son-in-law Larry Didway (the Oregon City School District superintendent).Surprise guests April 6 included former politicians: Republican Gov. Vic Atiyeh, Democratic Gov. Barbara Roberts, Senate President Gene Derfler (R-Salem) and Senate Majority Leader David Nelson (R-Pendleton), who joined lots of local officials, family and friends. The large celebration at the school named in his honor, Verne A. Duncan Elementary School in Happy Valley, included Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Canby), former House Speaker Dave Hunt (D-Gladstone), former Oregon City Mayor Alice Norris and Gladstone Mayor Wade Byers.

During the festivities, Duncan even got to guest-direct the new North Clackamas Community Choir in its debut performance. John Baker came out of retirement as choir director at Rex Putnam High School to form the singing group.