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Life Story / Obituary
Born in a time of plenty and having grown up in a time of tremendous challenge and change, Don Sherburne was a natural problem solver with an enduring spirit. Don possessed an unwavering commitment to using his talents in service of others and never hesitated to lend a hand. Systematic and organized, Don strove for excellence in his every endeavor. A devoted husband, brother, uncle, and friend, Don was revered by many and will long be remembered with great fondness by those he loved.
The 1920’s were marked by tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts. The economy boomed, wages rose for most Americans, and prices fell, resulting in a higher standard of living for most. With the inventions of the washing machine, vacuum cleaner, self-winding watch, bulldozer, the instant camera, drive-in restaurants, Band-Aids, and the convertible, the post-war era marked significant advancement and morale flourished throughout the land. This vibrant time grew even more brilliant in Plainwell, Michigan, as Norman H. and Beatrice (Brown) Sherburne welcomed their son Don to their family on February 27, 1927.
Growing up in West Michigan during the Great Depression, Don’s childhood was firmly rooted in family values and resourcefulness that would prove a firm foundation upon which he built the rest of his life. In 1930, early in the Great Depression, the family moved in with Don’s maternal grandparents, Fay and Carrie (Myers) Brown, on First Avenue in Plainwell. The living arrangement proved a win-win arrangement for all concerned. Don’s parents both worked for Angle steel Stool Company in Otsego. His father worked as a sales manager, and his mother worked as a purchasing agent. Don’s grandfather was a woodsman, sawyer, and manager of a local crate mill. His grandmother, it seemed, did everything else for everyone. This included teaching Don his ABCs, numbers, and times of day, which proved an excellent head-start for kindergarten. Those early years were rich with family tradition. With the arrival of his brother Thomas, Don also found himself growing up immersed in business. His father Norman taking over the crate mill from his father in-law, also along the way acquiring the Pike Mill in Otsego.
Those early years also found the family spending a good amount of time traveling the United States. An excellent student, after completing his K-12 education, Don graduated from Plainwell High School with the class of 1945. In preparation for his upcoming Coast Guard Appointment, furthered his education at Ferris Institute, studying Advanced Mathematics.
Following graduation, he entered the U.S. Coast Guard Academy at Annapolis, in New London, Connecticut, where he was accepted into a class of 120 cadets. During his training, he was lucky to pair up with an experienced skipper and sailing team. Six weeks later found himself climbing around the rigging of the Danmark, a Danish square-rigged training ship, manned by a Danish crew who sailed it to the Academy to avoid the Nazis. On weekends the crew sailed in regattas both at the Academy on Long Island Sound and various colleges throughout New England. Over the next two years, Don had many adventures, cruising the Great Lakes and the Caribbean. During the rise of the Korean Conflict, our nation asked the Academy to release candidates to become Naval Officers. Don answered the call and became a U.S. Naval Officer earning the rank of Lieutenant.
Upon safely returning home after his years of service, he chose to further his education earning his Bachelor’s Degree from Michigan State. He later earned his Master’s of Business Administration Degree from Western Michigan University. An excellent problem-solver, a student of Methods Management. Don enjoyed a long and successful career, first with Hamilton Paper Company in Plainwell, as Sales Correspondent, then Brown Paper Company in Kalamazoo as Methods Department Manager, then across Lake Michigan to Wisconsin; Wisconsin Rapids and Consolidated Papers, Inc. as Senior Operations Analyst. The opportunity to become Circuit Court Administrator for the 9th Circuit Court in Kalamazoo County brought Don home. He was then appointed as Regional Court Administrator for the State Court, covering an 18 county region of Southwestern Michigan. From the state returning to the county appointed District Court Administrator for the 8th District in Kalamazoo County, from whence he retired.
Don was blessed to marry the love of his life, Geraldine. For 69 years, they enjoyed a wonderful companionship rich in adventure and good company. Don and Geri enjoyed traveling the world and creating a lovely home together. A scholarly man who thrived in clear and consistent structures, Don enjoyed his routines, and Geri lovingly supported them. These included reading the Wall Street Journal every day, without exception. Anyone who came to know him quickly learned never to interrupt his reading time. They also came to know that they could rely on Don for intelligent, well-supported thoughts and ideas!
It is difficult to imagine life in the absence of Don’s steadfast presence. Though he will be dearly missed, his legacy of kind-heartedness, loyalty, order, and service will surely long inspire those he loved.
Don Sherburne of Kalamazoo, Age 93, died peacefully on July 5, 2020. Don was preceded in death by his brothers: Thomas H. Sherburne and Phillip Sherburne. Surviving are his wife Geraldine Sherburne; sisters Mary Bess Willmore and Nancy Williams; brother James (Dawn) Sherburne; sister-in-law Nancy Sherburne; nieces and nephews Pamela (Ed) Almaguer, Terri Lynn Myers, and Thomas R. Sherburne. Cremation has taken place. Visit Don’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com, where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to The Nature Conservancy (www.nature.org). Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo (269) 375-2900.