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Published May 11 2010

Ex-Minnesota legislator Eken dies at age 79

TWIN VALLEY, Minn. – Former Minnesota state Rep. Willis Eken died Saturday in a Twin Valley nursing home at age 79.

Eken, a farmer from Twin Valley, served in northwestern Minnesota districts from 1971 to 1984, including four years as the Democratic Farmer Labor majority leader.

Eken got his start in politics after his son Kyle was diagnosed with mental retardation and the family was told the only options were to either institutionalize Kyle or keep him home, where he could not receive an education, said his son Rep. Kent Eken, who serves in District 2A.

Willis Eken believed all children should have the chance to live to their full potential and devoted much of his career to education for all kids in Minnesota, Kent Eken said.