I have always had an interest in acting (ever since I was a young boy), and I studied acting throughout high school and college. However, even though I love acting, and I portrayed parts in numerous productions while in school, as a result of obligations to my family, and our family business, I felt compelled to major in engineering.
In 2005 I started to study acting again, with the intent of eventually having our story made into a feature film. In the past few years I have acted parts in a number of short films, and I now have a part in the upcoming feature film “Notes From The New World,” produced / directed by Vitaly Sumin.
Following are excerpts from the “Introduction” to “HOLDING ON,” a book I just completed, telling my life story.
“HOLDING ON” is a true story, a love story, including an internal voice, which haunted me from young adulthood, taking me down a long and winding path, with my greatest journey finally leading me back “home,” to a first love. It begins in a time that no longer exists, when life was slower and simpler, something I think many people unknowingly long for today. It contains the struggles of building a family business from scratch, and the battle against an ever growing metropolis, and the unscrupulous actions of a county government, so threatened by private enterprise, that it must eliminate its competition (to guarantee success of its $100 million project), in concert with the state regulatory agency, and two ruthlessly competitive mega corporations (purportedly mafia based). Our story began in a time when who you were, your word, and what you stood for were important, and meant something, and they can’t stop being important today! Any society is only as good as the actions of its people! It’s just that we’ve learned to ignore it!
I was born (named Howard Douglas Dane Fenske, always called Doug)and raised on a dairy and beef cattle farm in the mid-west, the only son of an ex-professional heavyweight boxer (with a nearly perfect record), whose shoes I tried to fill, and whose admiration I always strived to gain. I began my education in a one-room country school, separated from the encroaching city, only by the Grand River, which surrounded our farm, and the uniquely rural “Riverbend” area we lived in. “Sugarbabe,” a sturdy Welsh with saddle, was my transportation to and from school, until my younger sisters came along, and then she pulled us to school on a sulky in the fall and spring, and a sleigh in the winter.
There was a horrific fire on our farm, during the winter of my senior year in high school, which changed our lives. Following the fire, which destroyed our farm shop building, and nearly all the equipment we owned, uninsured, my parents and I started from almost nothing, to build a successful solid waste recycling and landfill business (Fenske Enterprises), which won state and local awards. I started boxing in high school, then attended Michigan State University, where I continued to box, while coming home every weekend, staying intricately involved in the family business.
While in pursuit of my MSU Civil Engineering degree, in 1968 (boxing under the name Doug Dane), I won the coveted “Golden Glove Award,” in West Michigan titled, “Boxing’s Heisman Trophy.” However, a year later, during spring break 1969, just prior to heading out to Daytona Beach, Florida with some buddies, I suffered a devastating accident at home on the farm. As I was hurriedly packing, my father convinced me to take one quick look at a design change he had made, on a heavy equipment invention we had been working on. That decision cost me the end of my right foot. I missed that spring term, lost my “2S” student deferment from the draft, and was given a “1A” (first draft eligible) classification, in spite of my injury. Though doctors told me that my boxing days were over, I would always walk with a limp, and I would never run again, I faced draft induction, and going to Viet Nam.
After graduating from Michigan State, while working as “Operations Manager” for Fenske Enterprises, I became restless. Young, driven, and naïve enough to be fearless, I wasn’t satisfied just running the family business. I ventured out developing enterprises of my own, including the organics land application business, and the (known to be) mafia controlled, and dangerously competitive, hazardous waste landfill business. One of the largest solid and hazardous waste disposal companies in the world then took actions against my business, for which I sued them. My life was threatened. The ensuing litigation, which lasted four and a half years, left me in continual fear for my life, and was undoubtedly the cause of unforeseen repercussions, in years to come.
Fenske Enterprises started having environmental permitting problems. My parents retired while Fenske Enterprises was in the middle of the permitting difficulties, and believing that I could turn things around, I purchased the business from them, and incorporated as FEI. I could not begin to imagine the hurdles that lie ahead.
However, a rainbow will often emerge, through some of the most severe storms. While Fenske Enterprises was going through its permitting struggles, my ten-year marriage, which had been failing for a number of years, came to an end. Simultaneously, the same internal “voice thought,” which had told me (ever since I was a young man), “I had already met who I was supposed to be with,” started again. Less than a year later, I became reacquainted with a lost love, whom I hadn’t seen in twenty years!
Feeling inspired, shortly after we re-met, I started to make a comeback in boxing. I refused to heed the doctors’ words regarding my foot injury, as I strongly believe most any handicap, including age, has only as much power over us as we give it. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1989, at forty years of age, twenty-one years after the first one, I won the “Golden Glove Award” again, and became the only boxer in history to win it twice! I now have won the Southern California Golden Gloves championship several times, and at age fifty-nine, I continue to box, with a permanent “Age-Discrimination Court Order” (the only one in the nation), which allows me to do so. Through all of life’s pain and struggles, boxing has helped somehow to keep me sane.
As a result of politics, our business was forcibly closed. We continued to battle for over ten years, trying to right the wrong we had suffered, and reestablish FEI. With the assistance of the Governor’s office, I was able to obtain a signed document from the state regulatory agency, admitting that the Fenske Enterprises facility should not have been closed, and “…could reopen, if consistent with the County Plan.” This became our “Catch 22.” Contrary to state law, which requires counties to include “existing facilities,” the County removed our “existing facility” from the “County Solid Waste Plan.” When I attempted to have our “existing facility” put back into the plan, I was thrown in jail!