Donald Lee Waltenspiel passed into peace surrounded by Prisca, his wife, his four children and other family.
A man of many interests, he was a truck driver for 50+ years, an airplane pilot and general mechanic extraordinaire. He loved bluegrass music and is no doubt still smiling that a banjo was playing when he moved to God’s arms on March 24, 2019.
Born in Santa Rosa on August 8, 1942, he proudly lived his entire life in Sonoma County. He owned and operated Windsor Fuel Company for more than 30 years, a business he inherited from his father Charles Waltenspiel, himself a long time Sonoma County resident.
He attended Laney College, earning a degree in diesel mechanics. He volunteered at Santa Rosa Junior College helping students in the diesel mechanic shop. He attended Empire College to earn a computer systems certificate and worked for Healdsburg Unified School District maintaining their various computers and networks.
A long time private and commercial pilot, over the years he owned four different aircraft and operated an air taxi service in his Cessna 182. He was recognized as a skilled and safe pilot. He volunteered at the Pacific Coast Air Museum at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.
In his younger days, he was a member of the Active 20-30 Club. He worked his way up the chairs to President in Spring 1982. As an alumni of Santa Rosa High School (1961) he sponsored a seat in the auditorium (Row K, Seat 18.)
His love of trucks had him working at Jim-n-I Rentals doing local deliveries and his mechanical ability had him doing repair work for Hot Springs Hot Tubs, albeit not at the same time.
His latest passion was Wednesday Night Drag Racing at Sonoma Raceway. He often finished in the top four in the Sport Street category and has the trophies to prove it. Racing his 1991 GMC Syclone, he was 2010 Season Champion in the Street Sport category. At the track, it was often heard "Wow! That's a really fast truck!" If, for whatever reason, the Syclone was out of commission, he raced his wife’s ‘grocery getter,’ earning trophies in not-so-fast vehicles (7 First Place, numerous 2nd , 3rd and 4th place finishes); thus proving that it’s skill that wins, not speed. Although speed is more fun.
He was always up for adventures with his family and friends. His trips included rafting the Grand Canyon with his wife, Prisca, and spelunking with his son, Bob, and grandson, Mitch. He went fishing in Canada with his life-long friend, the late Glenn von Berner. (They loved to tell the story of being trapped at a remote lake due to weather and defending their catch from bears.)
Don and Prisca’s recent travels were to visit race tracks during NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) races combined with Giants baseball games (bucket list-Wrigley Field in 2006) and car, train and plane museums. Thrown in were visits to the state capitols, train rides and cruises. He got to meet his racing hero, Don Garlits, last year.
Everyone knew we could call him to solve a car, home or computer problem. He would never hesitate to crawl under a car to diagnose a funny sound, into a cabinet to repair plumbing or to magically fix a broken computer. He was so mechanically astute, he could give instructions over the phone so you could fix your broken dishwasher, pipe, computer, lawn mower, or whatever. Quite an asset if you live more than 25 miles away.
One of Don’s hobbies was photography. When looking at the photography entries at the Sonoma County Fair, he spoke of entering ‘next year.’ Eventually he entered 3 photographs in 2018. The photo of his grand-daughter and husband on their wedding day, running through an arch of sparklers held by the wedding guests got a 5th place ribbon. Not bad for first time entry and not photoshopped.
He attended sporting and other events for his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews as they grew up. He always wanted to hear their latest news. Don and Prisca’s most recent trip was to San Clemente to attend a nephew’s wedding.
He kept up-to-date with current events and was a prolific writer of letters to the editor of the Press Democrat newspaper.
He is survived by his wife Prisca Waltenspiel, his four children, Bob Waltenspiel (San Rafael, CA), Gary Waltenspiel (Lower Lake, CA), Jennie Olson (Spokane, WA) and Trina Brannen (Santa Rosa, CA). His grandchildren Mitch Waltenspiel (Santa Rosa, CA), Kaylee Goodrick (Dayton, NV), Tallon Olson (Spokane, WA), Lindsey Olson (Spokane, WA), Jessica Miller (Santa Rosa, CA), Alex Miller (Santa Rosa, CA), great- grandson, Dillon Goodrick (Dayton, NV), and numerous nieces and nephews. We will miss his easy smile, gentle encouragement and loving, accepting nature.
A celebration of his life for family and friends will occur on August 10. Details will be available as they are known. Email RememberDonw@gmail.com to be kept informed.