By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Twin Cities family is in grief after losing a beloved business owner to COVID last week.

Jeff Durant of Blaine battled the virus for weeks in the hospital. He was 67.

“Not much the guy didn’t do that he wasn’t going to be the best one out there,” his brother Rick Durant said.

He grew up as a gifted athlete, as the best-rated catcher in the state when he graduated from Elk River High School, to making the world team for broomball. But, Jeff never forgot his roots from tiny Dayton, Minnesota, even when success came his way in business.

“He started sitting on the floor with a phone next to him, and probably 10, 12 years later we were … as big [or the] biggest union tile contractor in the upper Midwest,” Rick said.

Jeff Durant was the “D” in CD Tile & Stone in Blaine. From TCF Bank, the Guthrie Theater and Mall of America, their work is everywhere.

(credit: CBS)

“We weren’t born to success. He just had a passion,” Rick said. “He had a [Post-It Note] over his desk at home [that read], ‘Have I given enough?’”

From keeping sick employees on the payroll, paying for their medical treatment or co-signing for their loans, Rick believes his brother felt a certain guilt about all he had.

At 67 years old, Jeff was still hard at it when he came down with COVID-19 last month.

“He was very rigid in the protocols about the masks, the social distancing, the hand sanitizing,” Rick said.

Steroids and other therapeutics at Mercy Hospital for weeks weren’t enough. Rick donned a hazmat suit to say a final goodbye, and to thank the frontline workers methodically working through Minnesota’s surge.

“They’re not hearing enough of that,” Rick said. “This has got to be the closest thing to working a triage in a war, in a war zone.”

That is why Rick wants what happened to his brother to serve as a reminder of what’s at stake this holiday season, while mourning a selfless man gone too soon.

“I’ve tried to tell that to people, I say, ‘Don’t let this come to your doorstep,’” Rick said.

Jeff was giving even days before he died. A week before he got sick, he had written a check for $13,000 to be delivered to the local church in Dayton to buy gift cards.

Liz Collin