Irvin Duell, Meet the Man Behind the Smile

The Endeavor News covers our first ever ‘Person of the Month’, Irvin Duell.

Congratulations Irv!

A friend to all

A familiar face is always easy to find on the streets of Coudersport. At just about any time of the day or night, you can happen upon what is, arguably, Coudersport’s most recognizable person.

That face is worn by a man who will always greet you with a wide smile and a wave.

He is what everyone ought to be — a friend to all.

For the few of our readers who don’t know him, allow us to introduce you to Irvin Duell.

His is a story of perseverance, intertwined with an important lesson about the power of human kindness. On that count, Duell, 72, has long been on both the giving and receiving end.

In recent days, he has emerged from his South Main Street apartment at 4 am or so to begin shoveling snow and making his rounds downtown. In warmer weather, he’ll wash windows or pull weeds. He’s also eager to run errands for several friendly downtown merchants and offices. Tips are optional.

Irvin also has a job, of sorts, at the Coudersport Theatre. He calms down unruly kids, cleans up spills and helps patrons find seats – all in return for free admission and a free ticket to the concession stand.

Duell had a difficult childhood, faced with a mental handicap and abject poverty. He spent much of his life in Pittsburgh, where he worked at a home for orphaned boys.

Whenever there’s a public event in downtown Coudersport, it’s pretty much a given that Irvin Duell will be there. He was on hand to welcome Tom Corbett to town last fall when the then-attorney general was campaining for governor, a race he later won. At left, Irv poses in front of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park during his annual trip to see a Pirates games last summer. The trip is part of a tradition started by Joe Heimel and now carried on by his son, Paul. It is far and away the day that Irvin looks forward to more than any other throughout the year.

There was a time when Irvin witnessed excessive discipline in the boys’ home. These incidents were regularly whitewashed by the administration – until the state inspectors, by chance, chose to strike up a conversation with the smiling orderly, Irvin Duell.

Irvin related the physical abuse that he had witnessed and, when the home’s superintendent denied the accusations and attempted to discredit him, Duell instructed two of the victims to raise their shirts, revealing the wounds.

Within weeks, there was a new supervisory team in place at the home.

Irvin frequently visited relatives in Coudersport, particularly his sister Alice (Duell) Hoffman and a brother, Fred Duell. Once his job in Pittsburgh was eliminated, Irvin moved to Coudersport and immediately established his independence, as well as a growing circle of friendships.

He gets a helping hand here and there, but is largely selfsufficient when it comes to shopping, cooking, and tending to his personal affairs. Several townspeople look out for him at the Northwest Savings Bank, Hauber’s Jewelers, Gauld’s Corner Store, Olga’s Cafe and some of his other downtown hangouts.

About a decade ago, downtown merchant Joe Heimel invited Irvin to join a local group of men crowding into a passenger van to attend a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. So began an annual tradition. Upon Heimel’s death in 2004, his son Paul took over. Irvin looks to that annual trip to PNC Park as the highlight of his year.

Irvin Duell is the embodiment of the Golden Rule.

Whenever somebody needs a hand – holding open a door, carrying a heavy load or running an errand – he is ready to serve.

And, when Duell needs a ride to the doctor or a couple of dollars for groceries, friends such as Coudersport Theatre manager David Snyder are there for him.

“People are nice,” Irvin told Endeavor News. “Some people say how bad our kids are and how mean everybody is, but I don’t have any trouble.”

You’ll see him downtown these days in his Pittsburgh Steelers coat, snow shovel in hand and his famous wave and wide smile.

You can’t help but wonder what Coudersport would be without him.

Read this story and many more in this week’s edition of the Endeavor News. Available at dozens of local retailers.

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  1. Robin says:

    If more people were like Irwin Duel this world would be a better place.. Thank you for sharing this story.. It’s very heart warming..

  2. Essie says:

    Coudersport is very lucky to have Irvin Duell as a resident. And Mr. Duell was very smart when he chose Coudersport.

  3. Susan Bockoven says:

    This angel on earth received his wings yesterday. He’all be sorely missed!

  4. Jole'e McGarvey says:

    Irv was such a great joy of our little town….we will miss him….love u Irv….Jesus will take it from here….wave at my sister when you see her.

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