OD, a twelfth generation American, passed away May 1st, 2016 in Bradenton, Florida. He was born 19 Sep 1942 in Holden, MA, the son of Chester Ellsworth and Ellen (Sorblom) Bigelow. At the age of four, following his father's Army service in WWII, Don and his parents moved to Brattleboro, VT where he attended grades K-12, graduating from Brattleboro Union High School with honor in 1960. Don attended Norwich University in Northfield, VT where he graduated with a BS in biology in 1964 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He then went on to optometry school at Pacific University College of Optometry in Forest Grove, OR where he graduated in 1967. He spent the following seven years as an Army optometry officer and attained the rank of Captain. In 1974 Don resigned from the Army and transferred to the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. He accepted an assignment as the first optometrist with the Indian Health Service in Alaska based at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. In that position he served throughout Alaska working with Alaska Native people, an opportunity that he cherished all his life. Following twenty-one years of federal service Don retired from the USPHS in 1985 at the Navy-equivalent rank of Captain and went on to develop an optometry program for Southcentral Foundation, an Alaska Native health corporation based in Anchorage. He often expressed his fond memories of working for that organization. In his final year with SCF Don served as facility manager at the newly constructed Primary Care Center. In that position he played an important role in the move of the old Alaska Native Medical Center to its new facility in 1997. Don retired in 1998 and left Alaska in a motor home in which he lived for eighteen months before taking up residence in Bradenton, FL. When he wasn't gardening, enjoying a woodworking project, or fishing, Don's favorite avocation in retirement was serving as editor of Forge, The Bigelow Society Quarterly, which he lovingly crafted for publication for over 4 years. His immigrant Bigelow ancestor came to Watertown, Massachusetts from Wrentham, Suffolk County, England in 1632. Don is survived by his wife, Susan H. (Elder) Vallejo; his sons, Andrew Ellsworth Bigelow (wife Tina) of Bradenton, FL, and Christopher Niles Bigelow (wife Jennifer) of North Bend, WA; his sister, Dorothy Ellen Pomplin (husband Louis) of Port Charlotte, FL; his brother, Derald Ellsworth Bigelow of Trout Creek, MT; and his three grandchildren: Nicholas Ellsworth Bigelow and Ashley Cole Bigelow of Bradenton, and Evette Amundson-Dainow of British Columbia, Canada. His closest friend, hunting and fishing buddy, and confidant was Dr. Gary L. Mastolier of Bonners Ferry, ID. He is also survived by several cousins, nephews, and nieces as well as step-children Tasha and Dax Vallejo. A funeral will be held at 11:30am on Thursday May 12th, 2016 at The Church of The Redeemer, 222 S. Palm Ave, Sarasota, FL. The Rev. Richard C. Marsden, a fellow Norwich alumnus, will officiate. Burial will follow at the Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, (Clark Road), Sarasota, FL. A celebration of Don's life will be held following.
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Published in The Bradenton Herald on May 10, 2016