In Memoriam: Don DeGrasse

Donald Haglund De Grasse passed away on Thursday, June 6, 2019, after a 10-month battle with inoperable brain cancer. His generous heart, sharp mind and silly sense of humor will be greatly missed by all who knew him. Former board president and board member of Trinity Center, Don was a loving presence in the Center with staff, volunteers and especially our neighbors.

Don was born September 24, 1963 in Palo Alto, California and was truly a child of Silicon Valley. Long before most people even knew what a personal computer was, he was using a makeshift word processor his father created to write his school papers, and teaching himself how the machine worked.

As a child, Don loved sports, hiking and being the center of attention in his large and loving family. His mother and older siblings remember that he was always in motion, often dancing and singing the lyrics of a favorite TV commercial. As a teenager, he developed a deep interest in art and sculpture. Don started working at an early age, holding down two part-time jobs during high school and still making time to earn his Eagle Scout, play varsity football and earn good enough grades to gain admission to Stanford.

Don also finished working at an early age, retiring from Dell before his 40th birthday and devoting his time to family life, community service and the investigation of emerging technologies. Don’s career as a mechanical engineer was marked by creativity and accomplishment. He decided to make himself an expert in computer-aided design (CAD) and then used this skill to become a key design team member at Apple.

Don was a major contributor on the PowerBook 500 series, the best selling notebooks of their time. He designed the mechanism for the rotating keyboard stand on a number of notebooks. Don then moved to Austin to join Dell, where he worked closely with the company’s Taiwanese contractors. According to his former manager, Don was the only designer to work on the two best notebooks of their time, the Apple PowerBook and the Dell Latitude.

During his time with Dell, Don met and married Martha, and the couple started a family in 1998. Don’s California friends teased him about raising his family on a street called West Cow Path. This North Austin neighborhood was where Don got to know an eclectic group of fast friends that he worked out with for the rest of his life.

In the summer of 2001 Don decided to leave Dell, and in 2002 his daughter Sarah was born, making his family complete. As a father, Don was playful and involved, and he was able to make many great memories with his children. From photography to superheros to legos, from Harry Potter to hiking to dog agility training, Don dove whole-heartedly into his childrens’ interests. He built his kids a playscape, a zip line, and a canine obstacle course, and he inspired creativity in each of them.

Don was an active community volunteer, serving as president of Trinity Center and the Austin Parks Foundation, and serving as Treasurer during his time on the St. David’s Vestry. He was Cub Scout den leader for his son Andy and was Cubmaster of Austin’s Pack 20. Along with his son Daniel, he became very involved with Boy Scout Troop 3, and helped train the boys in rock climbing.

In retirement, Don rekindled his love of art by taking drawing and painting classes and creating portraits of his loved ones. His specialty was using candid photos as inspirations for his paintings. Don’s artistic abilities and technical expertise came together in his obsession with 3-D printing, and before he got sick he was in the process of 3-D printing life-like figures by using imaging software and multiple single-chip computers to create a panoramic reference photo.

Don’s life was filled with achievements but perhaps the most important one was the example he set during the last year of his life. He knew he was in a fight he couldn’t win but he never stopped trying to make his life as long and as meaningful as it could be. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he felt grateful for his life, his family, and the many friends and relatives who came to Austin to see him. His bravery made it easier for those around him to be brave.

Don was preceded in death by his father Robert DeGrasse. He is survived by his wife Martha, their children Daniel, Andy and Sarah, his mother Marilyn DeGrasse, his brother Robert DeGrasse, Jr. and wife Sarah Killory, his sister Lori Eirich and husband Jeff, and his sister Cheryl DeGrasse and wife Johanna Hall. In addition Don is survived by his brother-in-law Charles Moody and wife Kirsten and his mother-in-law Ann Moody. He is also survived by three aunts: Elaine Haglund, Durella DeGrasse and JoAnn DeGrasse; three nephews: Paul Bobba, Danny Bobba and Ben DeGrasse; three nieces: Emily DeGrasse, Christine Bobba, and Ann Louisa Moody; and seven cousins: Roger Fricke, Pam Fricke Smith, John DeGrasse, Jr., James DeGrasse, Todd DeGrasse, Merch DeGrasse and Kirk DeGrasse.

A funeral service is scheduled for 10:00 am Monday, June 10 at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th Street in Austin. It will be followed by a reception at Mercury Hall, 615 Cardinal Lane in Austin. (Overflow parking for the reception is available one block south of Cardinal Lane, at 3504 South First Street.) In lieu of flowers, the family would be very grateful for donations made to one of the following organizations:

Trinity Center Austin Attention Irit Umani 304 E. 7th St. Austin, TX 78701

Barrow Neurological Foundation For Dr. Ekokobe Fonkem Attention Robyn Duda 124 Thomas Rd. Suite 250 Phoenix, AZ 85013

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