top of page

Friends: Memories of Don

I've taken the liberty of excerpting messages about Don from emails and cards that we received when the news went out after June 28, and posting them here.

I am so sorry to hear this. As many of you know, Don was a stark advocate for the conservation of rare plants, and always had a good way of going about it using best science and sound judgement. His contributions to the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants and California Natural Diversity Database (including info on species distributions, threats and trends, habitat specificity, life history, and other information) were immensely helpful. He contributed data at least from 2001 all the way up to 2016. We are grateful to have had such a thoughtful and caring botanist contribute so much to the California flora. He will be greatly missed.
Aaron S

I'm filled with sadness at Don's passing, but am filling with joy and appreciation of my friend when I remember the origins of our grass roots rabble-rousing around Coyote Ridge starting around 2000.  We were lamenting the lack of action and how "somebody should do something" and looked across the kitchen table (and over our wine glasses) at each other, and a movement of sorts was born.  Don's mix of idealism, realism, and appropriate cynicism could cover any situation.  I can hear him saying, with an impish grin "he knows where all the bodies are buried" when referring to some mover and shaker many years ago . . .
Here is a photo of what Don helped protect and steward forever.
[NOTE: See “In lieu of flowers” on this website]
Stu W

Shocked and saddened by the news. Don was a mentor who supported and encouraged newbies like me as we struggled with new knowledge and experiences. He was wise and kind and I will miss him greatly. Peace and strength to you during this time.
Arvind K

We have lost a patriarch of the Dean Democratic Club; it is a sadness for the whole community.  I will remember Don fondly as one of the wisest, nicest, kindest curmudgeons I have known.  I don't remember the topic, but I remember the feeling of having been schooled by Don, in the most gentle and kind possible way.  :-)
Nancy N

That is a blow. Don got me involved doing YST mapping and control up on Coyote Ridge in 2000 or 2001 as I finished grad school. He will be long remembered as a great champion for California wildlands.

[card]: I learned a lot from him and enjoyed his wry sense of humor. Back in 2001 or so he got me working on weeds up at Coyote Ridge, and now I’ve made a career of it! He was one of our regular attendees at our annual Sacramento legislative lobbying days,, and he helped new folks understand how lobbying works…USDA is just now releasing cape ivy biocontrols, an effort we all worked on over the last 20 years. Know that Don’s many contributions live on through all the environmentalists he touched and the work we continue to do.
Doug J

I got to know Don in ’98 when I started volunteering with Common Ground TV, as he was dedicated to making that local cable program happen. I was in my first job out of college, starting my environmental career. Don was so kind, dedicated and passionate. Most of my time spent with him was in and around the studio, or at some local environmental event. On one field trip to Coyote Ridge I remember Don eagerly showing me the Santa Clara Valley Dudleya. We haven’t been in touch for a long time now, unfortunately, but he made a lasting impact on me. His spirit endures. And I’m happy to say that I’m now working in communications at Save the Redwoods League, continuing my enviro journey. Sending my best wishes to you and all his family at this time of loss.
Mike K

My profound sympathy to you and the whole family. I'm so sorry
But it reminded of all the fun we had. I can envision his side glances to me at meetings, usually when I said or did inappropriate comments or glances, but he understood what I meant. Love you both so much.
Jill C

Don was a mentor to many of us, and he inspired me in many ways. 
Judy F [instrumental in Don’s becoming a CNPS Fellow]
I am so very sorry to hear the news about Don.  I truly liked and admired him .  He was smart and kind and thoughtful and considerate.  And we both agreed on our dislike of Pete McCloskey. Don will be missed by so many.
Stephanie G

Don was our collective friend, mentor, hero, thought-provoker, adviser, and so much more.
Georgia S & Bill P

I am so sorry to hear about Don. He was my mentor too.  When I first started working at the Arastradero Preserve he would come out and walk with us and helped us create our plant list and helped us locate our first rare plant out there, Malacothamnus hallii, and told us how to make sure it would flourish over the years. He helped me again when I started work with Santa Clara County Parks, how to conduct rare plant surveys, how to report them, and how to connect with other plant lovers, including of course CNPS, where I count many friends.   He was calm, encouraging, and a great story teller. And great with the one liners. When I told him I wasn't happy at County Parks, he told me in order to keep up the connection between CNPS and County Parks, I was simply going to have to stay and take up drinking. 

Karen C


I’m saddened by this news; I so enjoyed knowing and working with Don. He pretty much single handedly killed a bad NCCP reform bill nearly 20 years ago. After I reported to a quarterly CNPS meeting about the bill and the challenges I was having getting it changed or stopped. Don made one phone call the following Monday to Senator Byron Sher the author; when I was walk in the Capitol later that day the Senator’s Legislative Director stopped me in the hallway and reported that I’d gotten my way the bill would be dropped.
It was a humbling experience and has led me to frequently encourage CNPS members and others I’ve worked with to develop a relationship with elected officials if you ever have interest in legislation and government policies, don’t just complain. You never know when your personal efforts may be the key.
Vern G

Don was a wonderful guy. Got me into the conservation committee and much more. I owe him a great debt of gratitude.
Steve R

[card] Don was larger than life. I treasured every event that I saw him at. His unfailing support for conservation was immense. I learned so much from him at the Livecorps meetings, and always appreciated his encouragement, support, and wry sense of humor.
Carolyn D

[card] Don was not just a conservation legend, he was a joy to work with. We’ll miss him.
David C

Don was one of the very capable pillars the Dean Club was built on.  He will be missed are totally inadequate words.
Ralph W 

He was a great inspiration to us as we became more environmentally aware and engaged.  I think he was the first docent who led us on a wildflower walk at Edgewood.
Kathy  & Bill K

I really enjoyed working with Don in the Dean Club and especially the environment committee. He brought a keen intellect and a calm even-handed way of resolving conflicts. He will be sorely missed.
Thida C

I worked with Don a lot when I was conservation director and he was so helpful to me. I had very great respect for him, and also enjoyed his often funny commentaries on the human condition. We communicated back and forth a few times in the last couple of years and was always great to hear from him. He will be missed.
Dave C

He was absolutely great and will long be remembered in CNPS circles!
Vicki S-Y

I'm sure I can speak for all CNPSers when I tell you how much we will miss Don.
His cheerful demeanor always was a shaft of sunlight during our sometimes contentious meetings in the past.
Steve H

I am saddened by the loss of Don, on several levels:  To CNPS, to democracy, as a toiler in the cause, as a wise and witty man, and much much more.
Jake S

I have many positive memories of Don encouraging all of us to be our best by the questions he asked and the seldom expressed comments he made.  He was admired by many.
Steve P

[card] I am more than saddened to hear about Don. There will be a big void with Don gone—he was a positive presence and he will be missed.
Jerry McNerney, Member of Congress

[card] I was so saddened to learn of Don’s passing. He was an early, true environmentalist, and he’ll long be remembered for his work to preserve so many Bay Ara open space treasures. He will be missed by all who had the good fortune to know him.
Anna Eshoo, Member of Congress
Don was the first person I met when I started at CNPS 8+ years ago - he introduced himself at a Chapter Council meeting at Lake Tahoe and made me feel welcome from the start. I will remember and value our many conversations, his advice on advocacy and dealing with humans in general - and his recommendations on great jazz music.  Greg S I will always think of all the work saving both Edgewood as well as Coyote Ridge...And the lawsuit etc.  So many good works in his lifetime. 
Jean & Dave S

[card] He was a fine, man, devoted to the public good, a lover of beauty both in nature and in music, and someone who indeed did his part to make this world a better place.
Emy & Jim T

He was a role model for me from a young age and one of the main reasons I became interested in wildlife conservation.
Geneva M

I am so grateful for having known and worked with Don.  His contributions to the MPAC Board enabled the organization to survive.  His friendship and marvelous sense of humor kept me going during some very challenging times.  Part of Don's legacy lives on in the environmental programming that he inspired and participated in, on our community channels.
Annie N F

[card] Don was that person I first met when I first attended a CNPS plant sale. His enthusiasm was contagious! . . .When driving to Sacramento he showed me where to go back to see the sandhill cranes . . .
Debra T

[card] You may remember how I first met Don—it was in a meeting deciding how we were going to add Jane [Beckerhaven]’s “Audubon Moment” to the community television program. We had a lot of fun learning how to do all that TV stuff, before digital.
Pete L   autumn 2017

bottom of page