Donald Kurtz

May 3, 1936 - August 31, 2022

Don Kurtz died peacefully at his home in Port Angeles. We feel so lucky to have had this loving, strong, larger-than-life man as our Dad who taught us independence, unconditional love and how to throw a good party. At 6’4 and with a deep, booming voice, Don certainly made an impact when you met him. Perhaps less well known was how he quietly helped many as they hit financial or emotional rough patches. He was always good for a place to stay, a strategy session, or even a loan, and he was an amazing friend—having friendships that lasted a lifetime and truly became family.

He was born at home in Cle Elum, Washington on May 3, 1936 to John and Mary (Yacinich) Kurtz and grew up living a small town life, exploring the woods, and driving his latest muscle car entirely too fast. Being the son of a coal miner, he worked in the mines the summer before his senior year in high school, sealing the deal on his decision to go to college. He graduated with a Pharmacy degree from Washington State University in 1959 and married DeLona (Dee) Fassero in 1961, who was also from Cle Elum.

He started his career and their family in Eugene, Oregon where they resided from 1961 to 1969 and then moved to San Mateo, California where they spent all but two of the next 45 years raising their two daughters—Kara and Kris, building lifelong friendships, traveling the world, and throwing epic parties. Whether it be their New Year’s Bagna Caulda feeds, pig roasts, Oscar parties, Super Bowl parties or family Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners—there was always a crowd and always room for a few more at these joyous and boisterous occasions. We’ll always picture Dad in the center of it all—carving the pig, making the gravy, or goading his next victim in for a game of gin or cribbage (yes, always for money).

He found his entrepreneurial passion early and was truly a self-made man. In Oregon he quickly found out that running the chain of pharmacies was more fun than being the pharmacist, and he leveraged that experience into a VP/GM position at Foremost-McKesson which brought him to California. After dabbling in the technology industry in its early days (Atari) and moving the family to Salt Lake City for two years (Skaggs), he bought the Giant Value chain of stores in San Francisco in 1976. Never eager to retire, he bought the Service Master franchise for Northern California in 1986 and ran the business until he did retire in 2013.

In 2013, they moved to Bainbridge Island, Washington to be closer to their daughters and their families and were present at every concert, game, ballet, birthday, and event that their grandkids participated in. Before and after retirement Don and Dee traveled the world, sometimes months at a time alone, and often alongside dear friends. Dee researched, Don drove—oh, the stories!

Dee passed in 2018 and Don weathered the pandemic in his condo on Bainbridge. In the fall of 2021 Don bought a beautiful home on five acres (always a dream) in Port Angeles near his daughter Kara where he spent his last few months watching the deer, quail, birds and an occasional coyote wander by, going on rides in the country, and visiting with family and friends who came to be with him.

We are so thankful for our wonderful caregivers that enabled him to stay in his home and live on his own terms after his diagnosis with metastasized bladder cancer in the fall of 2021. Tatum, Tami, Bethany and Sara from Olympic Peninsula Home Care, and Olenka became a part of our family—supporting our Dad and us in the most amazing ways.

Don is survived by “his girls” and their families—Dr. Kara Urnes, her husband Mark and their children Carter (Grace) and Cole (Margot); and Kris Kelsay, her husband Todd and their children Connor (Bonnie) and Shea. He’s also survived by his brother, Gary Kurtz and his family, and numerous cousins, extended family and so many ‘friends who are family’.

We will host a Celebration of Life at his home in Port Angeles, Washington on Friday, September 23rd at 3pm. A graveside service will follow on Saturday, September 24th at the Cle Elum Cemetery with a casual gathering at his brother’s ranch in Cle Elum after the service.

In his honor, please have a picnic in the woods, take a long drive, or mix up a proper martini. Zivio!