Donald L. Austin, of Gloucester, musician and scholar, passed away Jan. 19, 2015 after 93 interesting years.
He was born in Urbana, Ill., in 1921 and raised as the son of a college professor at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y.
His intense curiosity and energy level led to becoming an Eagle Scout with twice the required number of merit badges. He also played clarinet at a high level, a passion to which he returned in later life. He went on to excel at Colgate University, graduating in 1943 in just three years. He joined the Army and served on an ocean-going tugboat, where he got a taste for the sea.
After the war, he attended Harvard Law School. More significantly, he met and married Estelle Spadone. They moved to Rome, N.Y., and raised four children. He practiced law privately, was elected Rome City Judge, and served for many years as Public Defender for Oneida County. He was intensely interested in the law and how it could help people—not money.
He also kept chickens and always had a vegetable garden. Tireless in the community, he served with the Chamber of Commerce, the historical society, and several political campaigns, most notably as the local campaign manager for JFK. Golf, skiing, hiking, paddling, climbing, snowmobiling, sailing, learning the guitar—he never stopped, except to read science and history books.
He was fearless, never afraid of a challenge. In retirement, he and Estelle spent six years on their sailboat Parnassus, going as far as Turkey. Every adversity was turned into a memorable experience. They might have returned anywhere, but chose a lot on the Piankatank River, where they built a house—literally, with their own hands. Their road became Parnassus Lane. Estelle unfortunately passed away not long afterwards. Donald returned to his music with a passion, joining many groups.
In recent years, he decided to take up the oboe. That was not all, of course—he continued to read everything he could find about everything. He raised oysters, caught crabs, hiked the Beaverdam trails frequently, climbed one of the Adirondack high peaks at age 87 and Virginia’s fabled Old Rag—the hard way—at 88, acquiring the nickname “Legendary Dad” on Facebook.
He is survived by his four children; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Friends may attend a celebration of his life at the Piankatank League building, 11888 Harcum Road/Route 606, on Sunday, Jan. 25, between 2-4 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Courthouse Community Orchestra; send to Jan Farrar, Treasurer CCO, 7443 Founders Mill Way East, Gloucester, Va. 23061.
Andrews Funeral Home & Crematory, Gloucester is in charge of arrangements.