Following his retirement after 36 years on the job at Huntsman Chemical, Don and his wife, Victoria, the parents of four daughters, moved to Henderson (Rusk County) Texas. A Master Gardener group had not been established in the county, so he joined neighboring Smith County Master Gardeners. He thenembarked on a campaign to organize a Master Gardener group in Rusk County. Success came May 6, 2003.
Don continued his membership in both Smith and Rusk Counties. He spent countless hours at Texas A&M Research Station at Overton, working with Smith County on the annual field trials and Rusk County in the Demonstration Garden.
Don encouraged the Rusk County Master Gardener members to participate in the nationwide trials of the Earth-Kind® roses. He supervised the acquisition and planting of the twenty-one (three each of seven varieties) rose bushes on local airport property. The trial lasted three years. The roses were carefully maintained according to the rules of the trial. The rose garden is still maintained and is dedicated to and in appreciation of him.
In addition to the Earth-Kind® rose trial garden at the airport, he spent many hours educating people in vermiculture. He thoroughly enjoyed presenting programs at Master Gardener meetings and at the elementary school, delighting the children with his tubs of red wiggler worms.
With Don’s large six-foot frame and his deep, gravelly, booming voice, he created enthusiasm for ‘all things plants’. Always pacing back and forth during his presentations, audiences could not help but get drawn in and find his enthusiasm contagious.
Roses and vermiculture were only two of his interests. He presented numerous programs on composting, making sure his audience understood the many reasons for the process and the chemical reactions involved.
He managed to find additional hours to serve as coordinator to the state Texas Master Gardeners Association.
Along with the countless hours participating in Master Gardener activities, Don served his community as a member of First Baptist Church where he taught adult men’s Sunday School. He taught “Jobs for Life” and Sunday School at Bradshaw State Prison and East Texas Treatment Facility. He was also a member of the Gideons.