OBITUARY: Donald Mahler Feb. 20, 1924 – Oct. 20, 2019

Donald Mahler passed away Sunday morning, Oct. 20, 2019 at Timber Ridge Assisted Living in McKinleyville. Don was 95 years young. 

Born in Hinsdale, Illinois, Don was the oldest of three children to Bernhardt and Elsie Mahler.

While serving as a pilot instructor during World War II, Don met the love of his life, Mary V. Curnutte. 

The two married on Sept. 27, 1945. Together they were happily married for almost 57 years. They settled in Arcata in 1968. Previous stops included California (North Highlands, Walnut Creek) and Texas (Snyder, Corpus Christi). 

Don was successful early on in his pursuit of diverse interests, both professional and personal. While working various jobs including school teacher/administrator and salesman Don was raising five children, meanwhile completing his Ph.D. from Berkeley/SF. Don, reaching the rank of Major, was a pilot during  active/reserve duty in the Navy and Air Force for over 20 years. 

He built a house in Trinidad, developed many photography skills which he enjoyed sharing in local hospitals, libraries, and camera club events. He could take apart/fix anything mechanical – from watches to automobiles.   

Don’s voracious curiosity and sense of duty was well known. He traveled the world, loved flying well into retirement, and would spend hours talking with strangers on any subject, while taking on his lifelong pursuit of improving the lives of others. 

Don had a lifelong career of working to improve the lives of those with special needs. He was the Director of California’s Department of Special Education. Later Don joined Humboldt State University from 1968 until 1986 during which he held various positions including Professor in the Department of Psychology, Dean of the College of Behavioral & Social Sciences.

Don was known for and happiest supporting diverse local educational and artist organizations; sharing his empathy, humor, knowledge, art, and financial support. Organizations too numerous to list all but some include Senior Center, North Coast Native Americans, Life Member of the Redwood Art Association, the Humboldt Library Foundation, a founding member of the Redwood Camera Club, and the Humboldt Bonsai Society. 

The Arcata Lutheran Church played an important and active role in Don’s life. Mary was a partner in many of these and other activities.

While pursuing these activities Don followed his own path endearing those he met along the way with his curiosity, empathy, talents, common sense, and humor. Don was known to hand out to friends and strangers cards with humorous anonymous sayings to brighten their day. 

He was a master story teller and joker who lived and shared the belief that everyone desired and deserved the same blessings of life whatever path they followed. 

Don instilled in his children a love for travel, independence, curiosity, along with shared empathy for others. He always enjoyed hearing of their adventures.

Don was preceded in death by his beloved wife Mary, whom for many years he tirelessly cared for during her lengthy illness, along with two sons; Darrell and Richard.

Don is survived by three children; son Bruce (Gunbower, Australia) and wife Glenys and their three children Hannah, Ben, and Jedda, son Robert (Seattle, WA) and wife Mai and their son Dylan; and daughter Donna Claire (Arcata) and her daughter Maria. Also, Don’s two sisters; Marjorie Boltz (Walnut Creek, CA) and her two daughters Marcy and Amy,  and Nancy Foster (West Hartford, CT) and her two  daughters Sarah and Christine.  Don was blessed with four wonderful grandchildren.

Thank You for all those who shared their love and comforted Don during his lengthy illness. Including but not limited to Rick, Gwyn, Sara, Yoshiko, Larry, Jason, Guy, Timber Ridge staff and caregivers, and the loving folks at Hospice of Humboldt.

Local Memorial Services will be held on Monday Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. at the Arcata Lutheran Church, 151 E 16th St., Arcata. (707-822-5117). Don will be buried in Santa Fe National Cemetery, NM alongside his beloved wife Mary and son Darrell.

If desired, in lieu of flowers donations may be made to any of the many organizations Don supported.



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