Donald B. Ontiveros

Donald B. Ontiveros On December 16, 2008, in good family and medical hands but ultimately overcome by more pesky ailments than he ever expected or deserved, Don Ontiveros played his final measure. On that day, Beethoven would have turned 238; Don was 19 days past 67. Surviving him are his wife, Marcelyn Berlo, the focus of his unreserved devotion and delight; Marci's children Aurora Christensen, Nathan Robbins and Jeremiah Robbins, whom he helped raise as his own; Sean Ontiveros, his son; Storee Tatro; his daughter, four grandchildren; and Robert Ontiveros, his brother. Don grew up in Santa Barbara. He took to music in grammar school, playing winds with the combined elementary schools orchestra. He was attracted to architecture in high school and studied geology at Santa Barbara City College. He served in the Navy in Viet Nam and the Pacific and later degreed in musical composition at San Francisco State. Don was known for his fondness for animals, particularly cats - blind cats, injured cats, schizophrenic cats, grumpy old cats - although he never turned away a hungry possum, skunk or raccoon either. And for his friendships, seemingly beyond count. He loved conversation on any topic, storytelling, irreverence, almost anything risqué, and gin or scotch to go with the talk. In the music world, Don was an institution in the Bay Area and beyond. In the late '60s, he directed the SF Boys' Club Jazz Orchestra and led them in 1970 to the Reno Jazz Festival. About the same time, he caught on with the Don Piestrup Jazz Orchestra, later doing arrangements and becoming archivist for them as well. He was music librarian and staff arranger for both the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet, and was score coordinator and copyist at Skywalker Symphony for "Young Indiana Jones." He arranged the Artea Chamber Orchestra's premiere of Trois Gymnopédies de Satie, for the San Francisco Opera's world-premiered Dangerous Liaisons, arranged Variations on America, performed to celebrate the Palace of the Legion of Honor organ reinauguration, and orchestrated Earl Zindars' Tertium Organum. Throughout, he was in steady demand as an arranger and orchestrator for symphonic jazz and big band charts. Don will be remembered as a gentle and generous man who cared very much about those around him and about his work and everything else he did. Hundreds of gracious expressions of sympathy have come in since he died. Short or long, all are eloquent and his family is most grateful for each of them. One described Don as a "renaissance man with great talent, humility, genuine kindness and sincerity". Another called him the "dearest optimistic cheerleader, colleague and friend anyone could have". Enough said, and said well. Memorial gifts may be made to any animal humane society. Family and friends are invited to a memorial service on February 1 at 1:00 pm. RSVP for details. Colma Cremation & Funeral Services 650/757-1300
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Jan. 11, 2009