Don was born in Skellow to his parents Herbert and Nina and where he lived with his brothers Malcolm and Arthur. When his mum re-married he also acquired a number of older half-brothers. He went to school in Skellow where he was a good runner eventually going on to run competitively for South Yorkshire. Don was also a very active as a scout going right up to being a Rover Scout. As a teenager, Don learned to drive which was skill that served him well throughout his live and particularly when he was called up to do his National Service.
As a National Serviceman Don became a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps and was attached to the Parachute Regiment this meant that he not only served abroad but saw action in Cyprus particularly in driving on the roads from Nicosia to the Troodos mountains. He also saw action during the Suez crisis. Clearly this was a formative experience for Don and one which – despite being shot at from time to time – he enjoyed enormously particularly the camaraderie he found there. When he returned home, Don went to work for Sunshine Bakery as a salesman driving his bread van around the shops of central Doncaster. He enjoyed this job and worked there for many years.
Don met Joyce at a dance at Carcroft Miners’ Welfare and they married at Owston in 1960. Caroline came along 8 years later and she told me that Don was a very loving father which meant she grew up in a close and supportive family. Don’s involvement as a father even went so far as to encourage Caroline to help him deliver his bread in his van. On leaving the bakery, Don went on to become an HGV driver and then got the job he loved driving for the Mobile Schools Library Service – a job which Caroline maintains she got for him! He did this for 10 years. It reflected Don and Joyce’s love of reading – they were seldom seen without a book in their hands.
But cars were his passion; he loved building them and selling them and rallying with them until the insurance became prohibitively high. Don and Joyce were very involved with the Lindholme Motor Sports Club where they took part regularly in Road Rallies. It was a major part of their life for 30 years and during this time Don taught Caroline to drive. Don was also a very keen gardener at Elmcrest and when he moved to Burghwallis. He loved his garden especially growing Clematis and rarer plant varieties. Caroline told me how they enjoyed family holidays together especially touring Scotland. Clearly it was a very happy marriage which was brought to an end by Joyce’s death at the early age of 58. This became the point at which Don first became involved in the Royal British Legion and more particularly so when he retired.
Don had a private faith. When I visited him while he was very ill, he was happy for me to pray for him. Even though he was gravely ill he always remained positive and retained a sense of humour. Indeed, he had enjoyed good health for many years – never visiting the doctor for 26 years. He told me it was the cigarettes that kept him going!
Don enjoyed an active retirement with many friends during which the Legion became a big part of his life which enabled him to return to Cyprus and take part in pilgrimages to Europe. It is fitting that, when he died in hospital he did so peacefully surrounded by the family he loved.
As we approach Easter it is a reminder that for the Christian death is not the end. In Jesus God became like us so that we might be like him, he died as we die so that we may rise as he rose. But there is always loss, the empty chair at the table, the familiar voice now silent.
In this service I shall say the prayer, “Remember for good this your servant Don as we also remember him.” It is a prayer that God will forgive the wrongs we have done and remember only the good and there is much good to remember in Don’s life: as a loving husband and father, as a good friend and comrade, a man who served his country and this community well.
May Don this day rest in peace and rise in glory.
Rev Dr. Richard Walton