Donald M. Irwin
September 19, 1923 – May 1, 2020
It is with a heavy heart that we said goodbye to Don Irwin on May 1,2020.
Don was born in Eureka, California, September 19, 1923, to Paul and Genevieve (Hodgkins) Irwin. He was preceded in death by his parents and his daughter, Cindy Baldasano (Robert). Don grew up in Northern California, and lived his teenage years with his grandmother, Dorothy Cummings.
Don joined the Navy in June of 1941. He was aboard the USS Enterprise CV-6 when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941. His ship was supposed to be in Pearl Harbor near the USS Arizona at that time but bad weather kept them out to sea for an extra day. He was involved in many of the big battles of WWII in the Pacific, such as the Battle of Midway, The Doolittle Raid on Japan, the battle of Iwo Jima and the last big battle of the War in Okinawa where his ship, the USS Colhoun DD-801 was sunk by a Japanese Kamakaze attack. He was honored in Okinawa on April 6, 2017, the 72nd anniversary of the sinking of his ship. He paid tribute to his fallen shipmates by placing a wreath of flowers in the water near the site where his ship was sunk. In 2018 Don was honored in Washington, D.C. for his military service.
Don worked for Pacific Telephone Company for 35 years in a variety of inside and outside duties. He retired in 1981. Following his retirement from corporate work, he joined his son, John, and daughter-in-law, Jackie, working on their Gilroy ranch. He worked with Jackie as they cared for the animals, cut wood, and performed general maintenance on the ranch. He also helped them build their home on the property performing many tasks required during the construction.
Don was an athlete. He excelled in any sport he tackled, such as handball, racquetball, tennis and golf. His children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews were always looking for the sport where they might be able to beat him. It didn’t happen often. Even though he took up golf later in life he excelled and even in his 80s and 90s he was competing against and beating many others much younger than he was.
Don was an avid lepidopterist, that is the collection and study of butterflies. His collection includes species from all over the United States, Mexico, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He and his wife, Geneva, travelled to many locations just to find a different species to add to his collection.
Don played the harmonica and often entertained family and friends with his many renditions of old favorite tunes.
He loved woodworking, building various projects for the Idaho cabin and their San Jose home. He enjoyed building the cases for his butterflies and also making unique projects.
He is survived by his wife, Geneva, his sons John (Jackie) and Brad (JoAnn) his daughter Wendy and his step-sons Ed Blaise and Jim Blaise (Tracy) as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Don and Geneva spent many happy years together. They enjoyed travelling in an RV all through the United States and several trips into Canada and long trips to Alaska. They also used their time-share resorts to travel into Mexico and an extended trip to Australia and New Zealand, with John and Jackie Irwin. They purchased land and Don helped build their cabin in Island Park, Idaho, where family and friends gathered for over thirty years. It was a fun vacation spot for all but especially for Don and Geneva. Many of the family and friends have shared wonderful stories of their time at “The Cabin.” Learning to love the outdoors, many of them learned to fish, hike, ATV, and just love the nature that was all around them. Several were spotted chasing a moose from the yard or sitting outside at night studying the stars that were so visible from this remote part of the country.
They also travelled to many locations to attend the Veteran’s Wheelchair Games in support of Geneva’s brother, Rollin’ Joe Velasquez. Joe was a quadriplegic who also served in the Navy. After his accident that left him paralyzed, he competed in these games that are held at various locations every year. Don and Geneva attended twenty-four of these events over the years.
Don loved his family and will be sorely missed by the many children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews and so many friends that he has left behind.
Services will be held at Darling Fischer in San Jose on May 21st at 2 P.M. This service is restricted to immediate family due to the Corona Virus limits on gatherings. However, it will be live streamed and recorded so others may attend via the internet. Don will also be honored with services at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Rupert, Idaho. He will be interred at the Minidoka County Cemetery in Rupert. Those service dates will be determined when the travel restrictions are relaxed for inter-state travel
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