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Obituary: Don O’Donnell

As received from the Memorial Chapel & Plowe Funeral Homes:

Donald Ray O’Donnell, age 88 of Houghton Michigan, passed away on October 19, 2021 at Mission Point of Hancock Michigan.

Don was born April 6, 1933, in Redlands, California to the late Chester and Anne Leone (Cox) O’Donnell. After graduating in 1951 from Valencia High School in Placentia California, he attended Orange Coast College where he played college football and earned an Associate of Arts Degree in 1954. He continued on to earn a Bachelor of Science Degree, Civil Engineering in 1957 from the University of California-Los Angeles while being enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve from 1952 to 1960 when he received an Honorable Discharge as a Radarman, Second Class.

During Don’s college career and naval assignment, he married the late Betty Smith in 1953 and together they had a daughter, the late Cindy O’Donnell Lindemann who preceded him in death in 1987 and a son Jim O’Donnell of California.

As a Surveyor for the City of Anaheim in California for 16 years, Don worked on major projects including the layout of the Anaheim Baseball Stadium, Anaheim Convention Center, and the Anaheim Municipal Golf Course. In 1970, he started his own company designing and installing irrigation systems for over 2,000 acres of citrus and avocado groves after moving to Valley Center, California. After moving to Michigan in the mid 1980s, Don worked for Hitch Engineering as a construction inspector and surveyor, the Michigan Department of Transportation overseeing highway and bridge construction followed by U.P. Engineers & Associates where he worked as a Senior Construction Inspector and Field Manager until 1994. Don finished his career working as a Quality Control Engineer at Somero Enterprises until 2001 and retired as Housing Inspector for the City of Houghton thereafter.

Besides Don’s impressive education and career, he met his best friend and companion in the mid-1990’s and on August 3, 2002, he married his beloved Dottie (Voght) O’Donnell of Houghton at “their spot” along the shore of Lake Superior. Through their years together, they shared many breakfasts at Armando’s (thank you Diana Lampinen and staff), lunches at Applebees (taken care of by Don’s “best girlfriend” Lisa Gunnari and staff), and many other local places. Together, Don as chauffeur and Dot with her camera, they took many drives to capture photos at McLain’s Park, Eagle River and Eagle Harbor along with picnics at Brunette Park, Esry Park and stopping for Jilbert’s ice cream along their way, always saw them together. Don was an avid reader and rock collector; he had a humble kind spirit and spoke Spanish fluently. He was a great impersonator and enjoyed his quiet life and if you were lucky, you heard his storytelling, but without a doubt his greatest joy was his wife, Dot.

Preceding him in death are his parents Chester and Anne Leone O’Donnell, his brother Robert O’Donnell, his beloved daughter Cindy, cousin Richard Pontius, special niece Linda O’Donnell and brother-in-laws Jimmy and Joe Voght and other relatives.

Don is survived by his wife Dottie of Houghton, step-daughters Sherri (Mark) Peters of Fulton, Michigan and Robbi Brooks of Houghton, Michigan, grandchildren Andrew (Kaylee) Kokkila and great-grandchildren Leevi, Lenni and Natalia of Two Harbors, Minnesota. His son Jim (Cheryl) O’Donnell and grandchildren Kara Vincitorio, Shannon and Gavin O’Donnell of Encinitas and San Diego California. Also surviving are his great friends and brother-in-laws Jack Smith and Jim Smith, his best brother Pat, many nieces and nephews, great nieces and great nephews and his little buddy Wally.

Don’s wishes were to be cremated and a private gathering will be held at a later time.

The family of Don would like to thank the staff at Mission Point for their wonderful care and compassion over the past year and the Portage Hospice Team. Special gratitude to Kurt Kuure and Dave Paavo for their coffee and donut visits with Don and especially to his favorite little neighbors Emma and Ella for their loving spirit and joy they brought to “Mr. McDonald”.

To view Don’s obituary or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.memorialchapel.net.

Memorial Chapel Funeral & Cremation Services of Hancock is assisting the family with the arrangements.

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