Donald A. Dunham Jr. (1942 - 2013)

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Donald A. Dunham, Jr.

Sioux Falls lost one of its great visionaries and pioneers, and a person who was instrumental in revitalizing downtown Sioux Falls, South Dakota, when Donald A. Dunham, Jr., passed away on Saturday, January 12, 2013, at Avera McKennan due to complications from surgery.

Although he had numerous successful real estate projects, Don was most proud of his relationships with his family, friends, business associates, and investors. You could hear his laughter echoing off the walls at his business meetings, and he always made projects fun. He loved hosting events such as the Magnolia Golf Classic, a premier golf event he hosted for 37 years. He loved to do business on the golf course and developed many close relationships while teaching others the game of golf.

Don attacked life with energy and passion. He took great pride in taking on "impossible" projects, including the first tax increment project and rent-to-own tax credit project in the area. Don's great persistence would not let a project fail. He was a dynamic businessman with great vision and even greater tenacity to see his vision through.

Don loved downtown Sioux Falls and left his stamp on downtown with the River Centre project, the Commerce Center, the Phillips Centre, the Shriver's Square building, the Wiley Williams building, the Community Health Center facility, Spaghetti Works restaurant, Pollyanna's restaurant, First Bank & Trust Financial Centre and the Country Inn & Suites Hotel.

Beneath his drive and determination, Don had a heart of gold. He volunteered his time on numerous business and non-profit boards, was a generous donor and a passionate supporter of the USS South Dakota Battleship Foundation since 1969.

Don was born to Donald and Ruth Dunham in Elk Point, South Dakota, on July 31, 1942. He was quick to let everyone know that he was just a Union County farm kid who milked cows. He felt strongly about his roots as evidenced by his many developments in the Elk Point and Dakota Dunes area.

Don was very proud of his military service. After graduating from Elk Point High School in 1960, Don enlisted in the US Navy and served 4 years as a radioman. In 1964, he enlisted in the Selected Reserve as a drilling reservist. He returned to active duty in Sioux Falls in 1965 as a Navy recruiter, a position he held until his resignation in 1978. In 1978 he returned to the Selected Reserve as a drilling member in Sioux Falls serving as a radioman chief with the rank of Chief Petty Officer of a communications unit. In 1983 he retired from the Naval Reserve Service. He was a devout patriot of his country.

In 1975, Don became president and founder of Schultz, Dunham & Small, a real estate brokerage firm. In 1977 he founded The Dunham Company, a real estate brokerage company that grew to include construction management services, commercial and residential divisions, land sales and development and property management. The company completed over $100 million dollars' worth of new construction, development, and historical renovation under Dunham's leadership.

Don was recognized with many awards over the years, including the SME SD Marketing Executive of the Year; The REALTOR® Lifetime Achieve-ment Award; and Spirit of Downtown from Main Street Sioux Falls, Inc.

Don reached outside of the real estate market as one of the original founders and owners of the Sioux Falls Stampede and Sioux City Musketeers, and was instrumental in the restructuring of the Granite City Food & Brewery, Inc. Board of Directors.

He was a great leader and was proud of his employees, whom he considered family. He could be tough, but those who knew him saw his great, soft soul. He treasured his family, especially his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Don and Christine enjoyed their motorcycle rides, especially back and forth from the Elk Point area, always looking for the next new real estate project. He and Christine loved the times spent with their dogs, Baby Buddy, Skipper, Tracy and Little Bit.

Don was a true entrepreneur and those types of people are rare. He made his mark on this world and he will be missed by many.

Grateful for having shared his life is his wife Christine; his children Donald III (Donna Fuerstenberg); James (Linda); and Christopher (Susan), all of Sioux Falls, SD; his mother, Ruth Dunham of Sioux Falls, SDfour grandchildren, Ashley Dunham, Elizabeth Jergenson, and Quinn and Zachary Dunham, all of Sioux Falls, SD; and four great-grandchildren, Haylie and Raegan Dahlen, Olivia Dunham, and Harper Anderson, all of Sioux Falls, SD; his four brothers and sisters, Carolyn St. Hilaire (Ted); Calvin Dunham, Sr. (Jean Nordquist); Judy Miller (Ralph); and Archie Dunham (Julie). Don was preceded in death by his father, Donald.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be directed to the USS South Dakota Battleship Foundation, the Sioux Falls YMCA, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Sioux Falls Lions Club.

Memorial services will begin 3:30 pm Wednesday January 23, 2013 at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science. Private interment will be held. Visitation with the family present will be from 5:00 to 7:00 pm Tuesday January 22nd Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls.

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Published in The Argus Leader on Jan. 20, 2013
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