Don was born in Portland, Oregon and passed away at Kaiser hospital from cardiovascular complications. We said goodbye to an extraordinary man who lived an amazing life of honesty, dedication, loyalty, faith, courage & helping others and above all, loving his family first.
He was preceded in death by his father Ernest Earl Smethers; mother Karen Edith Theilade and survived by his wife Sonjia; son Bob Smethers; daughter Beverly Strange; stepson Rian Gant; grandchildren Nicole Schumacher, Kaitlyn Stone, Brittney Stone, Carly Smethers; step-grandchildren Hudson Gant and June Gant; great-grandchildren Greyson, Oliver, Archer, Orion; sister Nancy Burbach; former wife Brenda Lehman; Sonjia’s brother Jim Blunck and sister-in-law Sheryl Blunck.
Don graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School in 1956 and attended college at Portland State. He volunteered for the draft into the US Army, receiving an honorary discharge in 1965.
In 1961, Don married Brenda Procter and they had a son, Bob and daughter, Beverly. In 1962, Don began his long career with Tektronix and after 27 years retired at age 50. Don applied his electronics expertise to his racing hobby by developing a revolutionary new lap timing system. It was customary for timing/scoring crews to use traditional swept-hand stop watches to simultaneously time 2-4 drivers a piece. Don designed a “master” clock with 10 “client” boxes which eliminated complexity and enhanced accuracy.
Don’s childhood stomping grounds were the St Johns and north Portland neighborhoods where he often toured the area with his bicycle buddies. He recalled times spent as an early adolescent touring the devastation left behind when the Vanport neighborhood was flooded in 1948. The resulting area would eventually be developed into a road racing and drag racing facility now known as Portland International Raceway, which would later become Don’s “adult playground” for several decades throughout the rest of his life.
Don enjoyed building three homes, snow skiing, water skiing, racing road tracks, collector cars, rental car business, president and treasurer of car clubs, traveling, remodeling, investing, boating, fishing, bookkeeping, lots of music and the Wurlitzer organ, and enjoyed maintaining a water district of more than 80 homes in West Linn.
In 1980, Don met Sonjia and her son, Rian, skiing Mt Bachelor. Several years later they married in the US Virgin Islands and have been married 29 years. Don and Sonjia enjoyed watching off road races supporting son Rian who was an active motocross competitor.
In the decades as hobbyist car owner/team principal with FASTCO Racing (father and son team) the drivers and crew earned over 40 club racing championships, competing on tracks throughout the northwest and Canada. Don owned and race-prepared a total of 5 Porsche 911’s, between 1974 to 2002. In 1990 Don and Bob developed a bare VW golf chassis into a class winning competitor earning 14 championships.
Organizations he enjoyed for many years, RRWD water district, Team Continental race club, Benson Class of 56, SCCA and Conference racing, Porsche Club, Portland Yacht Club, Masonic Lodge and Scottish Rite doing all 33 degrees.
Don and Sonjia were enthusiastic power boat owners, the last boat being a 44’ Ocean Alexander, and membership in Portland Yacht Club for 14 years enjoying activities and friendships. Sailing in the Virgin Islands and power boating up to the San Juan’s and Alaska were highlights in Don’s adventures.
Don loved music and the Wurlitzer organ and music was so much of his life. Here are some of his favorites: Autumn Leaves by Eric Clapton, Hands on the Wheel by Jerry Walker, Stardust by Willy Nelson, My Sweet Lady by John Denver, This Is All I Ask by Josh Groban & Tony Bennett, Strangers in Paradise by Andrea Bocelli and Tony Bennett, If Tomorrow Never Comes by Garth Brooks.
In lieu of flowers, a scholarship contribution can be made for Benson Polytechnic High School students in Don’s name. Contact: Chuck Heil, 503-625-0274, email@example.com.
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