Donald Rathjens
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Donald J. Rathjens
A life devoted to teaching, and contributing to his community
Donald J. Rathjens, 87, of Basking Ridge, N.J., passed away peacefully in his home on July 29, 2020.
Donald was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he attended and graduated from Drew University, where he met his future wife, Karla. Together they attended and graduated from the University of Massachusetts with advanced degrees. They later bought their first home in South Orange, N.J., where they resided for 25 years before moving to Union, N.J.
There were few things Donald loved more than teaching others and giving back to his community. Fortunately, Donald was able to turn both of those passions into a long career in education. Starting as a teacher at Ashland Elementary School in the East Orange School District, Donald's abilities in the classroom and commitment to making a difference in the lives of all of his students saw him become vice principal and then principal of the school before retiring in 1988.
During the summers, Donald continued to give back through working as the manager of the South Orange Community Pool. He also worked with the South Orange Recreation Department to oversee their community summer programs.
Although he retired from public education in 1988, Donald never stopped giving his time and expertise to a variety of organizations. Donald later taught at the Redeemer Lutheran School in Westfield, N.J. He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, N.J., and served as a deacon and elder. He also served as the Chaplain of the Springfield American Legion Post 228.
After a long life spent in South Orange and Union, Donald had recently moved to Fellowship Village in Basking Ridge. Throughout his life, the only thing he loved more than his family and teaching was making people laugh - a talent that quickly endeared him to anyone who met him and instantly made him a beloved member of the Fellowship Village family.
Donald was predeceased by his wife, Karla Moebius Rathjens.
He is survived by his children, Leigh Johnson (Roger), Peter Rathjens (Emily); his grandchildren, Daniel Johnson and fiancée Stephanie Agresti, Michael Johnson (Kassandra), Trista Egan (Sean), Melanie Rathjens; and great-grandchildren Norah Egan and Jack Johnson.
A Memorial Celebration of Donald's life will take place at a later date.
Donations in Donald's memory can be made to the Presbyterian Church of Springfield, 37 Church Mall, Springfield, N.J., Fellowship Foundation, 8000 Fellowship Rd., Basking Ridge, N.J. 07920, and the American Heart Association.

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Published in The Star-Ledger on Aug. 3, 2020.
Please consider a donation, as requested by the family.
Memories & Condolences
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10 entries
August 4, 2020
Mr. RATHJENS was a soft spoken man- he seemed to always have a bit of a soft smile on his face; it was as if he had a little joke to make or just burst out in a cheery laugh! I would say, he made me feel as though I made his day! Not many folks can make you feel that special! I know he is with Mrs R exchanging their experiences while they were apart- I’m glad they will watch over us and when we feel the urge to chuckle- it probably “The Don”!
Rest In Peace Mr RATHJENS , I’m glad I knew you❤
Colleen Apter
August 4, 2020
I will always have fond memories of this man as he was not only funny but always had kind things to say.
My sincerest condolences to the Rathjens Family.
May peace and comfort find you during this difficult time.
Bob Triefler
August 4, 2020
My favorite teacher at Ashland School. I graduated there in '61, hadn't seen him in years but when I did , he remembered me and my brothers.
Claire H Russell
August 3, 2020
Jane & John Lang
August 3, 2020
I met Mr. Rathjens in 1978. He was once of the nicest people I ever met and a true gentleman. As a young man, he was always so kind to me. The world will not be the same place without him.
John Santillo
August 3, 2020
I taught with Don and my children had him as a teacher at Redeemer. He had a wonderful personality, always wore a smile, cared about his students, and loved the Lord. A life well lived. Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Father.
Susan Marks
August 3, 2020
Don was a memeber of Post 228 American Legion, Springfield for many years. Served as chaplain for most of that time. Always found the appropriate prayer for Memorial Day and Veterans Day. His presence at meetings has been missed
Gerry Gebauer
August 3, 2020
Gerry Gebauer, Commander , Post 228 Springfield
August 3, 2020
May your memories of the wonderful times you shared with your loved one comfort you and your family, today and always.
American Heart Association
August 3, 2020
I worked with Don from 1964 to 1968 and he was the kindness person I have ever worked with. He was a valuable asset to all his teachers.
Barbara Walter Rachbuch
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