3/22/1937 ~ 3/22/2015
"Kindly Dr. Hartmann"
Don hails from a village in Central Minnesota, slightly northeast of Lake Woebegone. His father, Al(phonse) was the son of a respected pioneer merchant, and his mother, Thelma, was a French-Polish lass from St. Cloud, whose name still brings a frown to the faces of those who knew of her earlier antics. Don inherited from her his irresistible impulse to be outrageous.
Don's early years were spent under the watchful eyes of the Benedictines, both nuns and monks. He sang in the boys' choir and played in the school band under the direction of Sister Margot-one of his favorites-and served mass at the local church. He learned to achieve during those times, whether in academics, basketball, acting, writing, Boy Scouts (therein lies another sad story), or even catechism. The Benedictines were not totally successful: they insured that he rejected the clergy as a life's work; he also pulled a prank or two on the men and women in black, including tossing golf balls out of the church belfry and setting small charges of nitrogen triiodide around the Abbott's refectory table.
After a relatively traumatic adolescence, Don had an offer to play football-which he had never before played-at his first college, St. John's University (Minnesota), by their most successful football coach, John Gagliardi (who must have had his own cognitive deficits). Don became a serious student, first at St. John's, then the University of Minnesota, and finally, Stanford University. He studied with some distinguished psychologists (D.G. Patterson, Al Bandura, Quin McNemar, and Leon Festinger). While he didn't quite make it as a Bay-area "love child" in the '50s, Stanford and Minnesota treated him well, indeed.
The move to teaching at the University of Utah was notable, with a new wife and child, all stuffed into a VW bug with their accumulated treasures. Teaching was a challenge, administration always a puzzle, and research slow to get started without the collaboration of his long-term and highly regarded colleague and fellow Stanfordite, Donna Gelfand. Despite numerous displays of the vagaries of his small-town mentality and the trauma of his early adolescence, Don prospered as a faculty member, a beloved mentor, a demanding editor-and as a psychologist! However, his big thrills from the '60s onward were nearly crashing head-on with a small plane on a deserted Southern Utah highway, being run down by a charging bull moose, late-night guerilla gardening, and his moment of fame on the long list of the Unabomber. As Don told the story about his FBI investigation, his only explanation for Kaczynski's interest in him was as a potential editor who shared a common Polish background.
When Don retired-about five years too late-the garden called to him, with all of its good smells, textures, colors, and dynamics; and of course, the delightful produce. Those years ended when his pulmonologist, the skilled Jim Pearl, forbade garden work because of Don's life-long history of pulmonary self-abuse. So he reverted to older interests: family, wine, competitive bridge, and reading-particularly those wonderful dark Scandinavian mysteries. As his life narrowed, his children, wife, and other friends and intimates filled him with wonderment. Don is survived by his talented grandchildren, loving children-Mark, Brian, and Kara-his caring wife, Joy (to the world) Seiter, Joy's children Ray and Lindsay, his former wife Barbara Votaw, his 50-year friends, Uncle Hank, Pat Clark, and Donna-as well as his remaining sibs, Gary and Nancy. His other sibs-Mary Kay, Bob, and Dave-preceded Don, thus failing to support the adage "First to ripe, first to rot."
Don: Goodbye, world; I wish you luck despite YOUR many cognitive imperfections and increasingly traumatic adolescence. It has been a kick for me; I received a lot more than I deserve from a group of wonderful people.
An open house remembrance and celebration of life will be held at Red Butte Garden from 10:30am to 1:00pm on Monday, May 18. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Red Butte Garden or St. John's Abbey Arboretum.
Online condolences may be offered at www.starksfuneral.com
Published by The Salt Lake Tribune from Apr. 5 to Apr. 12, 2015.