JULY 4, 1916 TO APRIL 8, 1986
Donald Leo Healy was born July 4th, 1916 in Santa Clara,California to Royal and Bessie (Knauer) Healy. Since Bessie had a friend in California and Royal Wallace was in the Merchant Marine and was at sea, Bessie had traveled to California from Seattle so she could give birth at her friend’s home at 1071 Alviso Street, Santa Clara, California. (Birth Announcement). Shortly after the birth, Bessie and Don returned to Seattle where they lived at several different residences within the next few years (See Bessie’s Page) before they settled in the Richmond Beach area.
Don attended kindergarten in what is now the Richmond Beach Library. At 7 years the family moved to 1209 45th Ave. N. Seattle, and remained there for until after Don left home. Don attended an elementary school in the neighborhood, followed by Interlake Intermediate School and Lincoln High School.
Don’s Lincoln High School Graduation Program from 1935
Following high school. Don worked part-time and attended college part-time. He went to the University of Washington off and on for 5 or 6 years. He would take particular courses of interest to him in math, astronomy, physics, and chemistry. Frequently, he would have difficulties with the course the first time through, but he would then retake the same course and do fine. During this period he was in ROTC at the University of Washington and also took flying lessons at Boeing Field.
Don pursued numerous interests, principally in the areas of mechanics, watching making, instrument repair and explosives. He started with watch making and repairing mechanical objects at age 8 or 9, and by age 15 was operating a watch repair business out of his home. This was a practice that he maintained through out his life, although in his later years he moved more into jewelry repair.
During his teen years he and some friends constructed a diving bell and tested it in Richmond Beach and/or in Lake Union. As I recall, a bicycle pump provided the air supply. Friends watched as Don tried out his new invention to see if it would work.
On another occasion, Don and some friends set off a bomb that Don had constructed, in Green Lake in the middle of the night. Very loud! It rattled windows all around the lake.
Don was a very good mechanic and watchmaker, but at an early age he specialized in understanding the properties of numerous materials, metals, and explosive devices. He knew which materials were best for certain applications. He knew how to use black powder, TNT, and other chemicals to create devices for specific uses. If you wished to crack open a boulder, remove a stump, make a big firecracker, or smoke device, or powder that crackled when you walked on it, he knew exactly how to do it safely, and did.
Some of Don’s friends included Darrell, June, Amy, and Archie Vandercleeve. Don’s best friend Darrell, was killed in an automobile accident, when Don was 16 or so. Don was a passenger in the vehicle and was thrown through the windshield but emerged relatively unhurt. Perhaps as a result of this accident and his more cautious nature, Don was a very good driver. When the family went on their lengthy vacation trips when Roy Healy was home from the sea, Don did almost all of the driving.
During the summer of 1941, Don’s ROTC unit was assigned to summer camp at Fort Baker, California, where they learned to fire the large disappearing guns that were part of the coastal defenses. Don apparently suffered kidney damage from the concussion of the disappearing guns and was admitted to Letterman Hospital and then placed on inactive duty on September 11, 1941. (When the U.S. entered World War II latter in the year, this unit went on to Corrigedor in the Philippines and many died or became prisoners of war.) It was during this period in the summer of 1941, that Don met Carol at a dance at the Presidio, organized for service men by the USO. (Jane, Mom, and Gin occasionally went to these dances. Gin more occasionally.) When he was placed on Inactive Reserve status, Don then went to work for Pan American Airlines in the instrument shop on Treasure Island, California (He had worked at an instrument shop in Seattle on Elliott during his college years.)
On Dec. 7th, 1941, after learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Don came over to Mom’s, had dinner, left for Seattle, and was reactivated from Seattle into the U.S. Army Infantry. Mom recalls a story of his eating cookies provided by the Beedle family after this dinner, while stuck in snow bank on his way by car back to Seattle. With the nation at war, the Army had quickly decided that Don was physically fit for duty. On March 7, 1942, he received orders to return to active duty, pending the results of a physical examination. On April 1, 1942, he was shipped to Camp Wallace, Texas, to the Coast Artillery Replacement Training Center for duty with the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. From Texas he was send to Fort Mason, CA, to the Presidio of Monterey (April 14, 1942) and back to the Port of Embarkation in San Francisco, CA on April 17th, on a troop transport ship, and arrived in Hawaii on April 28, 1942.
Don in uniform during World War II
In Hawaii, he was first stationed at Fort Shafter, the oldest U.S. military outpost on Oahu, with Battery “A” of the 64th Coast Artillery. On July 9th, 1942, he was transferred to SO #73, Headquarters of the 7th Air Force at Hickham Field as Assistant Engineer 0. He was promoted rapidly, to 1st Lieutenant on November 7, 1942, and to Captain on January 11, 1943. On September 25, 1943, he was designated Officer in Charge of the Instrument Repair Section. During his tour of duty, he was at various times Officer in Charge of the Fabric and Parachute Section, Officer in Charge of Project “A”, and ended his tour in Hawaii as Officer in Charge of the Bombsight & Instrument Branch. There they did repair work and research to improve the bombsight process. On August 6, 1945, he was promoted to Major. Apparently, he was also involved in some other experiments. He mentioned that they experimented with the idea of bringing the tires on the B-24’s up to speed before touchdown to reduce the wear on, and extend the life of the tires; rubber being in short supply. They quickly learned that doing so dramatically increased the length of the landing roll out. The Army Air Corp concluded that it was better to wear out more tires than to loose more aircraft.
Mom and Dad corresponded during this period frequently to infrequently. He came back in the December of 1944 and married Carol in January 1945, then returned to his post in Hawaii until the end of the war. When World War II ended, Don returned to Mill Valley, getting back just before the arrival of a baby boy (Donald Roy Healy). Shortly after his return, Don went to work for Carrow & Green in San Francisco as a watchmaker. This lasted a few months before he set up his own shop in Mill Valley, in a corner of a stationery shop in El Paseo. He was in this location for less than one year before he moved the shop to the Mill Valley Bank Building, then moved the shop back into his own space in El Paseo. During this period he worked in partnership with Mr. Bell. Mr. Bell was more interested in the retail side of the business, while Don focused on watch and clock repair. Don and Carol lived in several rented homes in Mill Valley before purchasing their first home at 54 Bayview, Mill Valley. Don Roy and Marilyn were born when Don and Carol lived in the little house at 25 Renz Road (originally built as a legal library for Sylvester Simpson’s law library, behind the family residence at 29 Renz Road). Kit was born while Don and Carol lived at 54 Bayview in Mill Valley.
Don next worked for Silge and Kuhina, an instrument repair company in San Francisco for several years. He was a salesman for Silge and Kuhina and during this period the family lived at 7 Robertson Terrace in Mill Valley. A few years later, Don and Carol purchased the home at 29 Renz Road from Carol’s parents, Granville and Carol Beedle, just prior to David’s arrival in 1955. Don worked for the Camera Center in San Rafael when David was born in 1955. At the Camera Center, Don both sold cameras and repaired cameras and watches. He worked there for several years until 1957. In 1957, Don began his employment with University of California in Berkeley, working there with one brief intermission until his retirement in 1978. He first worked in the Zoology Department, where he developed the sectioning knife for the electron microscope,
Letters concerning the patent rights for the sectioning knife.
and later worked in the Space Sciences Lab, Botany and Bacteriology Departments, Microscope Repair Shop, Electrical Engineering Department, and the Radiation Lab (involved the Chico trips). In 1970, while working in the Biochemistry Department, Don developed the Electrophoresis Machine used in analyzing DNA. As mentioned earlier, Don’s greatest expertise was in understanding the nature and properties on many metals and materials. While working for the University in numerous capacities, professors and students would need machines or apparatus built for experiments they were conducting. These individuals would describe to Don exactly what it was they needed the machine to do, and Don would either build the machine from scratch, or modify commercially available equipment to meet their needs. One project I recall involved the need for a pump that would not generate any static electricity. Don built a pump in which all the moving parts were glass.
Don had always wanted to return to the Seattle area. Following his retirement from the University of California on May 1, 1978, Don and Carol moved back to the Shoreline area, just north of Seattle, and almost within sight of the Richmond Beach area that Don had grown up in during his early youth. They returned to Seattle on August 23, 1979.
In his later years, Don suffered from congestive heart failure. On April 7th, 1986, Don, Carol and Jane were driving back from lunch in Everett along a road just north of Edmonds, when Don suffered a heart attack. He was taken to the Intensive Care Section at Stevens Hospital where he regained consciousness and appeared fully alert and his normal communicative self. He was to remain overnight on monitors and be fully evaluated before his release. However, early in the morning of April 8th, Don had a massive heart attack and the staff was unable to revive him.
Stories – Bobby, Johnny and Marilyn Stories.
4th of July- blew up milk box with Page in the 1940s, attached very large home-made firecracker to redwood tree below the house in the 1970’s (very loud). On every 4th of July, he found a way to celebrate with nation’s founding with suitable, frequently home-concocted explosions of one sort or another.
In cleaning up his belongs after his passing, a very large collection (two large garbage bags) of firecrackers and fireworks were found, along with several pounds of black powder, and a wooden box containing five practice grenades. As with metals and materials, Dad’s knowledge of the properties of these items was extensive, he handled them very safely, and he loved fireworks. Perhaps it had to do with being born on the 4th of July.
Halloween – wired the front walk with crackle stuff, squawkers and flares.
Christmas- always did his shopping at the last moment. Bennett’s: famous story about coming in just before closing on Christmas Eve–saying “don’t close yet, It’ll only take me 10 minutes” and he was right.
Set up train before Christmas – tree was set up Christmas Eve, after children went to bed.
Traveling – once driving you couldn’t get him to stop for love nor money.
From his father, Royal, he learned to tie knots and to climb the rigging of tall ships. He was not afraid of heights.
Also encouraged his children to “do whatever you wish in life; just do the best you can at whatever you choose to do”.
Very supportive; encouraged you to think for yourself.
Was always learning something new – generally related to science, but was also interested in theories of religion and the formation of the cosmos.
AN ACCOUNT OF THE PRIVATE “FAREWELL” SERVICE FOR DONALD LEO HEALY HELD AT EVERETT, WASHINGTON BY HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY ON APRIL 12, l986.
by Kit Healy
Dad had mentioned on at least one occasion that when he died, he wanted his ashes spread at sea; and that after this was done, we should all go out and have a party. As fate would have it, about four months ago Don Roy purchased a 28-foot Islander sailboat (which he named the “MistDefying”); and at the time of Dad’s memorial service he suggested that we could all sail out together on the waters of Puget Sound and spread the ashes as Dad had wished.
As of Friday, April, 13, it didn’t appear as though the weather was going to cooperate. Forecasts called for rain, wind and cold, but we didn’t want to delay too long, especially since David and Sherry needed to return to San Francisco by Saturday evening (April 12).
As Saturday morning dawned, the skies were overcast and the air was chilly but there was no rain and not much wind. So we called Don. Then Mom, Marilyn, Monique, David, Sherry, Nadine and I drove up to Don’s apartment in Mukilteo. Don and I went down to his boat at the Everett Marina and prepared it for getting underway. The others arrived a little while after; and around noon we pulled out of the slip and cruised out of the marina under motor power. The weather was still overcast but there were patches of blue sky; the temperature was quite comfortable; there was only a slight breeze; and the water was very calm.
As we motored past the end of the breakwater. Don spotted a seal basking on a buoy, so we cruised toward it. Dad had seen seals while swimming in Puget Sound as a teenager and he enjoyed their carefree company. As we passed within twenty feet or so of the buoy, the seal watched us go by with a sort of casual but friendly expression and we continued cruising south out into the middle of Port Gardner Bay. At around 12:40, Don stopped the motor and 1et the boat drift at a point several hundred yards away from a large freighter moored in the harbor. The water still quit calm with gentle swells. We all gathered together in the cockpit near the stern and Don read a short address that he had prepared. It appears as follows.
As you told us many tines during your life, it was your wish that upon your passing we scatter your ashes on the waters of Puget Sound. We are gathered here today to fulfill that request and to return your mortal remains to the waters that you so loved and that nurtured you during your life. As we say goodbye to your physical presence, your spirit and essence remain within each of us, stronger than ever before. And as we continue forward in our lives, the generosity, the compassion, the tolerance, the willingness to listen to and to encourage not only family and friends, but all beings with whom you shared this life, and the philosophy that each of us should let our imaginations guide us in achieving all that we can from life; to live our dreams, so to speak; that these ideas and philosophies that you taught us will continue with us through our lives and thus be passed forward from one generation to another in an embodiment of the spirit that is you.
Dad, may your future be filled with peace and harmony, as we most lovingly say farewell to you for the time being.
I had also prepared the comments which appear below and read them after Don was finished.
Well Dad, here we are on Don’s boat, delivering your ashes to the waters of Puget Sound as you requested. We will certainly miss your physical presence, but your spirit lives on with us. Although its a shame you couldn’t have been around longer to be with us and to do all the things you were so enthusiastic about doing, nonetheless, I, at least, am not sad. On the contrary, I’ve been feeling a remarkable kind
of joy and I think it’s because you did such a good and complete and full job with your life. When I spoke with you last Sunday, you mentioned, as you have mentioned before, how proud you were with all of us. Well we feel at least as fortunate and proud for having had such a loving, generous, talented and otherwise superlative father. Your life was a full and splendid thing and rather than mourn, I feel like
celebrating a job well done. So …
CONGRATULATIONS AND WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!
(Please note all the exclamation marks at the end of that.)
Thanks so much for everything. And whatever you’re doing, keep on enjoying yourself. We will, too. Also, I was going to get rid of this model of the Santa Maria a long time ago but you always wanted to keep it. So we’re going to try to
set it afloat with your ashes. It needed ballast, so we filled it up with a few of your many pencils.
Take care and thanks again for everything.
Following this. Mom spread the ashes gently into the water over the stern. David then launched the Santa Maria which I had built at the age of twelve or so. Unfortunately, it did not stay upright very long, but it remained afloat nonetheless.
After a short interval, Don restarted the motor and we cruised back toward the marina, again passing the buoy with the seal on it. He was still there, basking away, but as we passed by him this time, he gave us a nice, enthusiastic bark.
After securing Don’s boat at its slip. Sherry said that she and David would like to treat us all to lunch at a restaurant at the marina named Pelican Pete’s, adding that this would be particularly appropriate since Dad had become fond of eating there. So we had a very pleasant and satisfying lunch at Pelican Pete’s. As we were leaving Mom also mentioned that they had just left this same restaurant with Jane and were driving back home when Dad had his first seizure, thus making it the place where Dad had his last meal.
From here, we all drove David and Sherry down to SeaTac Airport so they could catch their 4 P.M. flight back to San Francisco. Then Mom, Don, Nadine, Marilyn, Monique and I ultimately all returned to the house around 5 P.M. and had some Breyer’s ice cream with some delicious strawberries on top which Monique had picked out.
From Lynn Beedle:
That was a good write-up! Very informative. Learned a lot about Don. He
was a sure-nuff entrepreneur. Couple of things:
That diving bell: Did it work?
The “little house:” I know it housed that huge library of legal books,
but was it really built to house the legal library? Could be. One of my
sisters (all of whom have better memories than I) will know.
You don’t record his date of death. That should be included. It’s
difficult to write about, I know, but folks long beyond us will want to
know what brought it on. (Incidentally, I think I was one of the last
ones to visit with him. It was late one night and for some reason I
couldn’t go see him when the others did. The next morning we got the news.)
I remember how strongly he wanted to return to Seattle. It’s so good
that he could have those years there.
My recollections of Don were of him sitting at the head of the dining
room table there at 29 Renz — talking. He could hold forth on just
about any topic in the world. So well informed!
I really liked Don.