The Obit For Don Wilson

Donald Wilson
(1928 - 2011)

Published in Santa Maria Times on September 7, 2011

Donald (Don) Edward Wilson, 83 peacefully passed from this life to a much better place on August 31, 2011 in his home with his family nearby. He was born in Los Angeles, July 16, 1928 to Henry and Clara (Lindenfeld) Wilson.

When he was nine years old his family moved to Norwalk, CA where they could live in the country so his dad could have room to raise chickens and teach him how to play baseball.
Don was class valedictorian when he graduated from Carmenita Elementary School.

At Excelsior High School he played football and earned letters in basketball and baseball. For three years he was editor of the sports page and student conductor of the highly acclaimed school orchestra, where he played the trumpet. While attending college he played in a dance band, and had "more darned summer jobs" which included working as a butcher at a neighborhood grocery store.
A NY Yankees scout coached him in pitching on a semi-pro team while he attended Fullerton Jr. College, and he earned All-Conference awards for the two years he attended Whittier College, pitching in two conference championships.

While at Whittier College he met and married Jo Ann Smith, from a pioneer Santa Maria family. They lived in Whittier while she finished college and he worked as a Recreation Director in Norwalk. In the spring of 1951 he signed a contract to play for the St. Louis Browns baseball club in Stockton, CA. In the summer of 1952 he pitched a shut-out for the Pacific-Clay semi-pro team against the Santa Maria Indians at Elks Field. The next morning, V. President Prof Wilson from Santa Maria High Joint Union School offered him the varsity baseball team coaching position to replace Joe White, who was taking the city's Recreation Director position.

In 1952 Don began teaching Freshman Civics and Physical Education classes at Santa Maria High in addition to serving in multiple coaching positions: Assistant varsity football, Head J. V. football and basketball and Head varsity baseball. The baseball teams won or tied league championships in 11 years, and won two CIF Championships. During these years he advanced into Administrator of Student Employment and assistant administrator of Adult Education. During this time he also officiated basketball and pitched for the Santa Maria Indians.

Don was hired, in 1963, to be Assistant Administrator of Adult Education and summer school and baseball coach at the newly formed Allan Hancock College. The coaching lasted just two years when he took the position of Dean of Continuing Education until he retired in 1986.

Officiating basketball and football became his hobby. He officiated PAC 10 basketball for 3 years until he was asked to join the conference as a football referee which he enjoyed for 20 years. For three years he worked in the United States Football League. The special games he officiated were the Rose Bowl, the North-South Shrine Classic, the East-West Classic, the Japan Bowl, and the USC-Notre Dame game.
Another avocation was to be a commissioner of athletics for colleges. Among these were the Central Valley Conference, the Metropolitan Community College Conference, the Western Football Conference, and the American West Conference. He later worked to form the Western Collegiate Football Officiating Association to help young men have the opportunity to get into officiating college football.

Just this last July, over 70 of these men now officiating in the NFL, PACI2, Big12 and other major leagues or conferences paid tribute to Don for giving them their "start" up the officiating ladder by celebrating him with a banquet here in Santa Maria. He truly enjoyed their visits and remembered names and details of each one of them.

He is a proud member of both the Santa Maria Indians Baseball Club and the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Rountable Halls of Fame.

Don and his family had a wonderful life enjoying traveling, camping, boating, fishing and friends. He supported local athletics, coaching American Legion summer baseball teams and enjoyed his children's participation in athletics. He's a past Charter President of the night-time Kiwanis Club, Noon Rotary Club, a Paul Harris Fellow, a 50 year member of the Elks Club, and the Santa Maria Country Club tennis and golf.

Don lived a full active life with abundant love and dedication to his family and friends, loyalty to his work, and was gifted with a memory and attendance for detail.

Fondly known as "Papa" or "Pop's" by all his grandchildren, he always found a way to lovingly insert a strict life lesson or a reminiscent story of his own experiences. These lessons or stories usually related to sports and bore the definite "Don Wilson" theme of how athletic challenges often parallel life's challenges. He had a special way of teaching the concepts of teamwork whether that applied to sports or simply the game of life.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Joey, sons Bill (Debbie), Michael (Shauna), Douglas (Mary); grandchildren Tami (Tyler) Bennett, Kelly (George) Freitas, Jeff (Larin) Wilson, Andrew Wilson, Courtney (Danny) Webb, Lara and Alec Wilson; great-grandchildren Delaney, Austin, Savannah and Kenna, 2 nieces and 1 nephew. He will also be missed by brother-in-law Phillip Smith and cousin Sister Mary Joann Lindenfeld.

Friends, if they so desire may make donations to the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Roundtable Inc, 853 Via Esmeralda, Santa Maria, CA 93455 or the Allan Hancock College Boosters, Inc. P.O. Box 9155, Santa Maria, CA 93456.

Services will be held Monday, September 12th, 11 :00 a.m. at the Orcutt Presbyterian Church, 993 Patterson Road, Santa Maria, CA 93455.
Arrangements are made under the direction of Dudley- Hoffman Mortuary, Crematory and Memory Gardens.