Born November 8, 1920, in Oilton, OK during the boom times in the oil fields, Don’s father worked as an oil driller and his mother aspired to be a schoolteacher but opted stay home to raise seven children. During his adolescent years, he went through the entire 12-year school system in Oilton and was a teacher’s aide in high school. He attended the local Baptist church and spent time working in the family garden and doing other odd jobs. He was active in various sports, especially baseball. Don remembered the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s well. He reminisced of when children made up their own games to play, sang their own songs, and made their own ice cream. When he spoke of these days he made sure to note that this was before tv or other electronic gadgets.
After graduating high school in 1938 as valedictorian, Don worked as a manager of a bowling alley for a period of time, then commenced college at the University of Oklahoma. In 1943 he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps where he was first sent to The University of New Mexico, then to the California Institute of Technology, aka CalTech. He graduated CalTech as a meteorologist and as a second lieutenant. He was promoted in 1945 to a First Lt. while serving in England. He obtained a Juris Doctor of Law degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1949 and a Master of Science in Meteorology from CalTech in 1952. In the Army Air Corps, he served as a Flying Control Officer and Meteorologist in England in WWII from 1944 thru 1945.
Following WWII, Don was a member of the State Bar of Oklahoma and Texas. He was elected the County(District) Attorney of Delaware County, Oklahoma from 1949 thru 1950. He worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for most of his professional life working on construction projects such as Minuteman Missile Sites in South Dakota from 1962-1965 during the Cold War and on the New Melones Dam in Jamestown, Ca completed 1979. He was the District Counsel of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Sacramento, CA from 1974 until retirement in 1990 and was a highly regarded and respected leader. He was presented with the Meritorious Civilian Service Award for his service from 1965-1985 by the Army Corps of Engineers, which is the highest award given by them.
After retirement, Don worked as chairman and consultant for The Bear State Water Works in El Dorado County, Ca from 1983 thru 2022. As a founding member of the water board, he played an essential part in creating and operating the water services in the Volcanoville area. Also in his retirement years he managed and sold the crude oil from an oil well he owned outside of Oilton, Ok. He never forgot his boyhood days in his hometown. He owned the land on which his childhood homestead sat. In 2004 he donated some of this land in Oilton for a little league ball field for the local children to use. In 1990 part of the Denney homeplace was donated by the heirs for the location of the new high school in Oilton and was named the Denney building.
Despite his prestigious achievements, Don’s proudest moments where his marriage to Martha Sturm in 1951 and the birth of their children; Don Jr. in 1958 and Keturah in 1959. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, parents, and 6 siblings. Don is survived by both his son and daughter, his only grandchild Amanda and her husband Brad, and numerous nephews and nieces.