Donald Howard Hepburn

Donald Howard Hepburn
May 8, 1917 - April 14, 2013
Resident of Santa Cruz
Don Hepburn took his final breath Sunday evening, April 14th, with his daughter Cuca holding one of his hands and his daughter-in-law Bonnie holding the other, as they sang him his favorite hymn, "In the Garden."
Donald Howard Hepburn was born May 8, 1917, to George Hepburn and Ella Roberts Hepburn in Hopkins, Missouri. He died just three weeks short of his 96th birthday and, thus, there is a lot one could write about the details of his ordinary and nonetheless remarkable life.
Don was determined; in spite of the Depression that reshaped his and so many lives, he graduated from (then named) Northwest Missouri State Teachers College in 1938 at the age of 21. That senior year in college he met the love of his life, Rosalie Auldridge, a young freshman who arrived on scholarship for her lovely high soprano voice. As a result, Don stayed on at the college as a groundskeeper for a couple of more years to court Rosalie, whom he married in 1940.
When it was evident that even young husbands and fathers were being drafted into service to fight World War II, Don enlisted in the Navy. Like many of his generation, he mostly refused to speak of what happened in the war. Yet, he was destined to survive it. A case of mumps, extremely dangerous for a 26 or 27 year old male, prevented him from shipping out to the Pacific with his shipmates, and that ship and all its hands were lost. Eventually, the Navy "discovered" he was a college graduate and sent him to Cornell University to become a "ninety day wonder," an abbreviated version of Officers Training. He served actively and on reserve until 1952 and was discharged as a Lieutenant, J.G.
Don was a great father whose career as a high school teacher for Los Angeles Unified School District (1945-1975) allowed him to be present with his daughters Donna and Cuca. He was a hard worker and consistently made the effort to be a good example to his children.
Don was a faithful and loyal husband. In 1968, with Rosalie's help and patience, he built their dream retirement home (that their nephew, Jim Auldridge, designed) in Lake Almanor, California. They lived there full time from 1975 through 1990. He and Rosalie were married close to 65 years before her death in January, 2005.
It may be that courting skills are like riding a bicycle. After Rosalie's death, Don looked up his high school sweetheart, Helen Woldruff, who was a widow after 63 years of marriage. They rekindled their relationship and they were married in February, 2006. This marriage gave Don his "Indiana family," his beloved stepson Scott, his wife Judy, and their extended family. After Helen died in December 2011, Don moved to Santa Cruz to be close to his daughter Cuca and her family.
Don's family expresses their enormous gratitude to the Hospice of Santa Cruz County's care team, led expertly by Pat Corcoran, R.N., whose gentle guidance and support carried us through the final month of Don's life. Likewise, we appreciate the health care and advocacy provided by his doctor, Thanh Vu, M.D.
Don is survived by his daughter Cuca Hepburn, daughter-in-law Bonnie Gutierrez, daughter Donna Willis, stepson and daughter-in-law Scott and Judy Woldruff, grandsons Bryan Willis and Daniel Gutierrez, granddaughter Alicia Schaffer and her husband Tim, great grandchildren Tyler and Katie Schaffer, many beloved nephews and nieces (including "greats" and "great-greats") and friends. He will be remembered at a memorial service in June, when more family can attend.


Published in Santa Cruz Sentinel on Apr. 21, 2013