HAMILTON — Donald Vander Kley passed away peacefully due to natural causes. He died in his sleep in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 2019, at his home in Hamilton surrounded by family. He was 90 years old.
Born on March 10, 1929, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Dutch immigrants Marinas Vander Kley and Alida Krynen Vander Kley, Don was the youngest of three brothers. Early on, he developed an industrious work ethic and passion for life. These attributes, instilled in him by his parents during his Midwestern, Great Depression-era upbringing, remained with him throughout his lifetime, positively impacting his loved ones and those he encountered on a daily basis. By the time he reached high school, Don was a skilled and competitive athlete, leading his teams to victory in a variety of sports, ultimately setting the all-time track and field record for the fastest half-mile in the state of Michigan. This record remained unchallenged for many years and is something he considered the crowning achievement of his sports career.
After high school, Don joined the Air Force and served in the Korean War. He graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in Merchandising and Business and served as Store Manager for a successful chain of Federated Department Stores in Anchorage, Alaska, and in Missoula, where he served as General Merchandising Manager for five years at the Missoula Mercantile Department Store.
During this time, he married Diane Hollenberg. Together, they raised Diane's three daughters, Lori, Carrie and Karna, and later moved to Seattle, Washington, where their son, Michael Scott, was born.
Upon retirement in the year 2000, Don settled in the town of Hamilton, enjoying the picturesque Montana landscape while continuing to pursue his lifelong passions as an avid fisherman, voracious reader and outdoorsman.
Don was a competitive card player, a Western movie aficionado and a gifted gardener, thanks to his Dutch heritage. An accomplished cook, his family especially loved Christmas dinners featuring his legendary oxtail spaghetti sauce. Finally, Don was a charismatic conversationalist and an enthusiastic traveler, with Hawaii and Mexico among his favorite destinations.
During his final days, Don was surrounded by his loved ones and continued to enjoy the majestic mountainous scenery of Montana's trees, sunrises and wildlife from the comfort of his home.
He is survived by his partner of 18 years, Jeannie Stone of Hamilton, nephews Jeffrey and Scott Vander Kley of Oregon, son Michael Vander Kley, daughters Lori Clavin, Carrie Daniels and Karna Coyle, grandsons Cameron and Christopher Coyle, Tyler Clavin and granddaughter, Jenna Clavin Blackmore, of Seattle.
A celebration of Don's life and legacy will be held in central Oregon in the spring.