Life Story / Obituary
Hard working only begins to describe the life of Don Douglas. His hard work ethic, learned from a young age, provided for those entrusted to his care. Although somewhat reserved, Don was a very personable fellow and well liked by many. He taught by way of example, and for these things and so much more, the memory of Don will be fondly remembered.
The end of World War II was a time of great celebration from coast to coast. As young servicemen came home to marry their sweethearts, the baby boom was officially off and running. New families were moving into newly developed suburbs, and U.S. manufacturers quickly turned at-war production into post-war innovations. By 1946, the assembly line and the 40-hour work week brought much stability to the nation after years of repression. It was time to begin anew with hopes and dreams for the future. This was especially true for Euclid and Anna (Schmidt) Douglas when on December 26, 1946, they welcomed the birth of their son, Donald.
Born and raised in East Detroit, Michigan, Don was the sixth of eventually seven children in his bustling household. He grew up alongside his siblings in what is now known as Eastpointe where he attended the area schools.
As one of the younger children in his family, Don grew up needing and having a fair amount of independence. While his family lived within their means, there was little left for vacations or extra activities as they were quite poor by today’s standards. Even so, young Don learned to be resourceful and used his ingenuity. He’d often take long bike rides spent exploring, taking a break along the way to eat a can of beans right out of the can . . . and all to himself before heading back home. He held fast to fond memories during his youth visiting a family member’s farm some summers and looked forward to these times away from home and the city.
No stranger to hard work, during Don’s high school years he worked for a plastic mold company. After graduating from East Detroit High School in 1966, Don was drafted to serve in the U.S. Army in 1967. He spent two years in the service, some of it in Vietnam as an MP. Occasionally he’d share stories about his time there, and despite the country’s view about the Vietnam War at the time, Don was proud of his service. Later in life he often reflected how the GI’s were treated when they returned home, yet he carried his status as a Vietnam Veteran proudly and later participated with various veterans organizations.
Don had known and lived near a young girl by the name of Maryanne Gettig while growing up in his East Detroit neighborhood. Following his honorable discharge from the Army, the two reconnected and began dating. They eventually married in February of 1970 at St. Leonard’s Church in Warren, Michigan. Although the marriage did not last, they shared the love of two children together, Jason and Melissa. Don and Maryanne remained friends as well for many years.
A good and loving father, Don did his best to provide a good life for his kids. He raised and instructed them, leading by example in terms of dedication and work ethic, which served them well. He attended their events at every opportunity, and even when working 2nd shift he’d sit and watch their earlier practices. For a while he even coached a few of their teams and absolutely loved it. He himself also played some recreational softball.
Nothing beat Don’s passion for cars and music! He grew up in the era of muscle cars and reveled in it. He knew all the different models and makes. His love of cars remained and he could remember the stages of his life based on the car he had at the time. Don liked his cars, had an appreciation for them and took good care of them. He particularly loved and reminisced about some of his cars in particular like his first Dodge Charger he had when he got married. His last car was also a blue Dodge Charger.
When it came to music, Don was in another world and had acquired quite an extensive 45 collection. He loved listening to his tunes and would often sing along. Although he wasn’t a phenomenal singer, he loved it just the same.
Don liked working with his hands and was good at it, too. Early on after the service he found work in the tool and die trade. Through the years he cycled through several shops as jobs would come and go based on the current economic cycle. With this in mind, and remembering the scarcity and struggles of his youth, he was all the more punctual and hard working. His son and daughter even remember the smell of coolant on him each day. He valued hard work and never shied away from taking on overtime hours. After about 20 years, Don desired something more stable and found longtime work with Chrysler where he worked until his early retirement at age 62. Even then, he found other jobs, keeping his passion for cars as he test drove new models for various automotive companies.
Not one to be idle, Don kept himself busy. He had various waves of interest, but his cars and music were the ones dear to his heart. He was always working and really didn’t have many hobbies, but he did enjoy his down time. Especially in later years, Don liked working on crossword and jigsaw puzzles.
Although Don was on the quiet side and somewhat reserved, he was most comfortable with people he had known for awhile. In certain times and in the right company, he would light up which made for memorable times. He especially enjoyed time spent in the company of his fellow veterans.
Don moved many times, but whether following a job opportunity or moving to be near family, he made the most of it. While much of his life was spent in eastern Michigan, he lived for several years on the far outskirts of Chicago, Illinois and for the last six years he lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan to be near family. When grandchildren came along, he enjoyed doing activities and spending time with them. They’d go for car rides, went on numerous outings, and later, he attended their sporting and school events, as well.
Anytime spent in the car going for rides was a joy for Don. He also liked going out to eat and a good steakhouse was always a good choice for him. When he moved to Grand Rapids he came to like dining at Russ’ Restaurant
Don Douglas never asked for much. He appreciated the simple things, and worked hard for the things he did have. By far his greatest joy was found in the love of family. His appreciation for music was undeniable, and his love and knowledge of cars was certainly his passion. It was while at home in the early morning hours of March 25 when Don began experiencing trouble breathing. Sadly, Don passed away several hours later. Gone but never to be forgotten, his memory lives on.
Donald Douglas, age 74 of Grand Rapids, passed away March 25, 2021. Don is survived by his children, Jason (Sarah) Douglas and Melissa (Terry) Weiss; and grandchildren Gretchen, Vaughn, Conrad, Solomon Douglas, William and Connor Weiss. He was preceded in death by his brothers and sisters, Delores Lowers, Robert Douglas, Maryanne Campbell, Sharon Reed, Charles Douglas and Katherine Taylor.
The service to remember and celebrate Don’s life will be held on Monday, March 29, 2021, 11:00 AM at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Van Strien Creston Chapel, 1833 Plainfield Ave. NE where friends are invited to visit with his family beginning at 10:00 AM. (Service will be live streamed as well). Interment in Christian Memorial Gardens in Rochester Hills, Michigan. To read more about Don’s life, to share a memory or photo of him and to sign his online guestbook, please visit www.heritagelifestory.com.