Don was born in Compton, California to Richard and Barbara Power. He grew up in Downey and attended Whittier College, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in German and History in 1965. With the ultimate goal of becoming a professor, he attended Harvard University where he received a Master’s Degree in German History. While he was at Whittier, he met Joan Singleton. They were married on August 5, 1966.
Shortly after his graduation, Don received a draft notice. He immediately applied to join the Air Force, and thus began his career as an Air Force officer in 1967. While in the military, he worked in program evaluation, missiles, and aircraft maintenance. As an officer, he was responsible for leading and guiding service members; he ensured that his crews properly maintained the aircraft for which he was responsible, and that he shepherded the people under his command. Even as an Air Force officer, Don was an educator.
During his two decades in the Air Force, he was stationed in various places in the U.S. including Indiana, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, and California. He was also posted overseas in Thailand and Germany. He retired from the Air Force while stationed in Atwater, California in 1988. During each of these assignments, he took the time to learn about the area and culture in which he lived. For instance, when he returned from his year long assignment in Thailand, he spent his free time off base exploring the surrounding countryside. As a result, he came back with an affinity for Thai food and hundreds of photographs of local pagodas and other interesting architectural features from the surrounding countryside. In Germany he would drag his family and as many airmen as he could reasonably fit in his van to visit the local castles, cathedrals, or nearby Roman ruins. While in Germany, Don and Joan took the opportunity to tour many other locations, including the Holy Land, Italy, and East Berlin, which at the time was behind the Iron Curtain. On these trips, he always had information to share with others about the significance of the sites that he visited.
Upon his military retirement, Don again focused on education. He recognized that while there seemed to be an overabundance of qualified history teachers, there was a shortage of mathematics educators. As a result, Don went back to school, starting by taking Calculus at Merced Junior College, a course he would later teach at that same school several years later. He eventually enrolled at Fresno State University where he earned his Master’s Degree in Mathematics in the early 1990s. Once the degree was completed, Don taught a number of mathematics courses at various local (and some not-so-local) junior colleges, before landing a position at Merced Junior College. He taught advanced Mathematics, including Calculus at MJC until he retired in 2017.
Don was raised in a Christian home. His relationship with God was something that he found very important. Don and Joan made it a point to be involved with the local church in each community where he was stationed. Upon arriving in Atwater, Don and Joan worshiped with the Atwater Church of Christ. During the next 35 years, Don served as a worship leader, a deacon, a Bible School teacher, and eventually as an elder. Following Christ’s example, Don and Joan believed it was important to be generous. In Germany, they often hosted itinerant preachers and short term mission projects from universities back in the states. Besides their regular giving, they believed it was important to support those who were in need as well as to support programs that were doing good work. They gave money to support a number of missionaries, especially to support the work of Tom Black, a former minister in Bitburg, Germany, who eventually served as a missionary in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Don and Joan were blessed with three sons, Rick, Tim, and Andy. As Don was active in the military, the boys lived in a number of different locations, and Don and Joan provided them a unique education by taking them to every castle, cathedral, palace, museum, restaurant, battlefield, formal garden, airshow, and rodeo within hundreds of miles of wherever they happened to be living at the time. Don and Joan also instilled a love of learning and of music in their children. Their home was always full of books, and whenever Don or Joan wasn’t playing on the piano, the record player was likely playing Bach and Tchaikovsky, as well as Segovia and Dave Brubeck. Don taught his children life skills. Through his actions he modeled responsibility, frugality, and generosity. Don also taught his children to love God.
Don began to recognize early signs of dementia in himself in 2017. Among other symptoms, he had increasing difficulty effectively teaching his students. He therefore stepped away from his podium, ever mindful of his students’ needs. He was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019. As complications of his condition began to worsen, he and Joan moved to Sacramento to be closer to family. Don passed on June 29, 2023, almost exactly six months after his wife.
Don is survived by his sons, Rick, Tim, and Andy, their wives, Wendy, Tonya, and Carolyn, respectively, and eight grandchildren: Ciara, Eamon, Rhiannon, Donovan, Gabriel, Stella, Tiernan, and Desmond. He is also survived by his brothers Ken and Bill. He was preceded in death by his wife, Joan, and two granddaughters, Abigail and Evelyn.