Donald Clary Tuttle
1938 - 2020
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December 25, 1938 – May 15, 2020

Don Tuttle passed away at home May 15, 2020 at age 81. He was a resident of Arcata and Big Lagoon, and a dedicated Humboldt County historian.
Don moved to Arcata in the late 1960's having decided Humboldt County was the place he wanted to live. He was raised in Indiana, the son of Lyle and Bessie Tuttle, graduating from Purdue University in 1962 where he majored in Civil Engineering. The day after graduation he sped west to the allure of California, working with CalTrans on the survey of the new Santa Monica – San Diego interchange. He discovered his love of travelling the west, driving his Triumph as far the weekends would allow.
Ambition returned him to school for a Master's degree at UC Berkeley, studying coastal engineering under Drs. Joe Johnson, Robert Wiegel and Hans Einstein. Here he met his wife Andrea, a sophomore, on the rare evenings when he left his studies to practice gymnastics for exercise. They were married seven years later at Patrick Point in March, 1971.
Don worked as a coastal engineer designing small craft harbors and the breakwater for the Diablo Canyon power plant under Omar Lillevang, a renowned coastal consultant. But the urban scene of Los Angeles drove him to a career change. For over a year he traveled the country, including Alaska, climbing glaciers and camping in almost every National Park and Monument, intensely studying the natural history, geology and history in the Visitor's Centers. This turned into desire for graduate work in environmental science. The beauty of the redwoods and recognition that Humboldt State University provided one of the best programs in natural resources brought him to Arcata where he completed a second Bachelor's degree in 1971.
The environmental movement was just coming into its own. Humboldt County Supervisor Ray Peart, an avid fisherman and rare voice for the environment on the board, enticed Don to take a job in the Public Works department as Environmental Services Manager. Don's unique combination of engineering skills and environmental science allowed him to take on the complexity of the newly passed National and California Environmental Quality acts, setting the requirements for environmental permitting for projects in Humboldt County for the next 31 years. The need to assess the impacts of proposed projects on historic resources, flood plains, landslide and erosion sites, wetlands and wildlife habitats led to Don's ambitious work to develop the Humboldt County Environmental Data Base. This collection of historic maps, rare documents gleaned from state and national archives, and aerial photographs, many of which he took himself, continues to serve project developers, engineers and county staff in assessing potential impacts and mitigation.
After retirement Don continued consulting with the county, providing institutional memory on many public works projects. Decision makers relied on Don's work over the years – not only because it was thorough and well researched, but because of Don's unique temperament that allowed him to navigate the span of personalities. He was kind, patient and helpful. He took teasing from his breakfast buddies and loved to toss it back.
Don pursued his love of Humboldt history, serving two terms as President of the Humboldt Historical Society and many years on the board. Don and Andrea's cabin at Big Lagoon, purchased in 1972, was their weekend retreat, and he served as Board President of the Big Lagoon Park Company for over 20 years. The fun of a chainsaw to buck up fallen trees and a tractor to groom the meadows filled many sunny days, and he loved the comradery of friends. The phenomenon of episodic bluff erosion became real when high surf in 1983-1985 forced the emergency relocation of many cabins, calling his engineering skills into action to design and permit new cabin sites. This led to one of the first plans in the state to pre-permit cabin relocation for a next round of coastal retreat, developed in cooperation with local planners and the California Coastal Commission.
Don's own research traced the growth of the infrastructure systems that have made the county's growth possible. From the earliest paths of Native Americans and early settlers that became the highways of today, to the first river crossings and bridges, wells, jetties and other systems that underlie the land use we see now, Don loved to tell stories of the new nuggets of history he had just discovered.
He is survived by his wife and companion Andrea of 50 years, niece Penny Lecklider of Indiana and nephew Nathan Welsh of Michigan. His sister Joy Welsh predeceased him in 2018. Donations in his memory will be gratefully accepted by the Humboldt Historical Society and Arcata Historical Sites Society. In lieu of a memorial gathering at this time he wished everyone to raise a glass and celebrate their loved ones.

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Published in Times-Standard from May 22 to May 24, 2020.
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12 entries
June 13, 2020
Don's environmental legacy in the North Coast will be appreciated for many years to come and his friendship will be sorely missed. So glad he was able to get much of his collection of historic documents put into the HSU Library. I have fond memories of our participation with the Eel-Russian River Commission in the 1980s, including an open-air ride on the train worker's car to view the Eel River for many hours and miles. Don was fortunate to live a full life and share his passions with Andy, who also fills her accomplished life to the brim!
Sari Sommarstrom
June 13, 2020
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Sari Sommarstrom
June 1, 2020
Andy: special thoughts for you at this time of loss. Don's life contributions will remain in our memories.
Brenda & Zuretti Goosby
May 27, 2020
I was a HSU Biology Major in my 30's in the late 1980's and rented a small room in Don and Andrea's home in 1989. My standout remembrance Andrea was when I was startled by your sudden scream when you saw that a treasured tree had been inadvertently cut down by some yard workers. I know Don was terribly sorry it had happened too. I didn't get to know Don very well but I did know he was an easygoing good-natured pleasant man. You have my heartfelt sympathies on his passing.
Steven Lui
May 25, 2020
Our thoughts are with you Andrea. We will miss Don's smile and easy going nature. We will raise our glasses at Big Lagoon soon. Rest in Peace Don.
Steve Reilly
May 25, 2020
As a geology professor at HSU I have had many opportunities to teach students using Don's work, and it was wonderfully done. He was such a kind and generous person helping us to connect with landowners so we could bring our students to their land. My deepest condolences to Don's family and friends. He will truly be missed by the earth science community.
Mark Hemphill-Haley
May 24, 2020
Don was a very special person. Really talented, and smart, but at the same time, a really nice guy, which seems rare these days. Always willing to share that knowledge. He was a good friend for over 30 years, and I shall miss him greatly, both personally and professionally.
David Imper
May 23, 2020
I will miss our discussions, both educational and humorous, at the Natural Resources Trailer at Public Works. Don had a wealth of knowledge and a memory to recall things in an instant. Don will be sorely missed by many, including those that worked closely with him. Cheers Don.
Andrew Bundschuh
May 23, 2020
I had gotten to know Don.From waiting on him at the Cafe Marina. Serving him breakfast for the last 14 years. He was very kind and sweet. He knew what he liked. Not saying he was pickie .He send plenty of food back.After awhile I knew how he like his food.I would tell Mikie the cook Fixit Don way.And Don was happy. He loved seating at the counter visting with all his buddies. His friend Jimmy Smith would always give him a bad time. Work will not be the same without these two fellows. Miss you Don.Tell Jimmy Hi.
Roxie Burres
May 22, 2020
Don was great to work with and have a glass or two with. He will be missed
Robert Wall
May 22, 2020
Don impressed me as a wonderful man, down-to-earth with broad vision and deep understanding. Thank you for a life of service and enriching experiences.
Chip Sharpe
May 22, 2020
He was a pleasure to work with through the years!
don & cheryl
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