Jan. 27, 1942 - Dec. 20, 2013
Former resident of Danville
Surrounded by loved ones, long-time Napa County resident Dean R. Donaldson passed away 12/20/13 after a nearly two-year battle with brain cancer. Born 1/27/42 in Oakland, CA to Harry and Ethel (Cute) Donaldson, Dean was raised in Danville, CA and graduated from San Ramon High School in 1959. He continued his education at Diablo Valley College and UC Davis, and upon graduation from UCD in 1964 joined the Army Reserves. In 1965 he married the love of his life, Margaret "Marnie" Symon, and immediately moved to Corvallis, Oregon where Dean attended graduate school at Oregon State University.
After receiving his Master's degree in Weed Science in 1968, Dean and Marnie returned to the Central Valley of California where Dean worked for Del Monte Corporation.
In 1969, Dean and Marnie moved to Napa when Dean was hired as a farm advisor by the University of California Cooperative Extension in Napa County. He assumed the role of County Director in 1972, a position he held until his retirement in 2001. During his tenure at UCCE, Dean authored or contributed to numerous publications on horticulture. Among his many career interests were field research, community speaking, and public education and outreach. One of the highlights of his 31-year career with UCCE was Dean's initiation of the Master Gardeners program, with which there are currently 120 active volunteers.
Outside of work, Dean's passion for nature, travel and photography took him all over the world. Over the years he and Marnie enjoyed hiking in the Sierras, in addition to visiting various national parks. Dean also greatly enjoyed taking local and international photography trips. Dean's main hobby, however, was spending time with family and caring for his and Marnie's home and property. In 1977, with the help of many friends and family, Dean and Marnie built a home near Calistoga. Over the years Dean spent many an hour on his tractor, or caring for his orchard, vineyard and garden, or just hanging out watching the local birds and enjoying the beautiful space he and Marnie had created. He was also active in the community, an almost 40-year member of Napa Rotary, and the Napa Rotary president in 1985-86. Dean also enjoyed his friends at Gillwoods Café, and most mornings could be found there eating breakfast.
Dean is preceded in death by his parents, Harry and Ethel, and sister Elspeth. Dean is survived by his wife Marnie, daughter Katy (Dan) of Lafayette, son Matt (Steve) of Sacramento, and grandchildren Helena, Caleb, and Delphine. He is also survived by his sister Doreen (Rollin), and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. Dean was a tremendously kind, gentle, hardworking and generous man. He is dearly missed.
In recognition of his life-long passion for agricultural education, an Endowment Fund for Environmental Horticulture Education in Napa County has been established in Dean's memory. If you wish to donate, please send a signed gift/donation letter along with a check payable to "Regents of the University of California" to Dean Donaldson Endowment Fund, c/o David Lewis, Director, UCCE Napa County, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, CA 94559-1315.
The family extends special thanks to Napa Valley Hospice for their care and support.
A celebration of Dean's life will be held at the Donaldson home on April 19 from 1-4pm.
Published in Contra Costa Times on Apr. 16, 2014