Donald Robert Reese

Apr. 16, 1927 – June 7, 2018


On Thursday, June 7, Don Reese passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was the beloved husband of Patricia Reese for 71 years. He was the much loved father of Don Reese, Sharon Spalding, Rebecca Friday and Debbie Brix. He had 11 grandchildren, 29 great grandchildren, and eight great-great-grandchildren.

Don was born at home on a farm in Maynard, IA, on April 16, 1927. He was the second of eight children born to Marion and Lucille Reese.

At 17 years old, Don needed his parent’s signature to join the Navy immediately after graduating from high school in 1944. He was accepted into Navy flight school and was sent to the Cal Poly campus in California for training. He was later relocated to Florida for continued flight school when the war ended, so he never sat in the cockpit for the Navy, but he later used the G.I. bill to earn his private pilot license.

After Don finished his commitment in the Navy, he and a friend took a road trip back to California. It was a wildly fun adventure, and at one point, Don sold his car, and the two young men were jumping freight trains and eating with other “hobos” in camps along the train tracks.

Don ended up back in Iowa, where he met the love of his life and married her six months later in The Little Brown Church in the Vale. They had four children and moved to California in 1952.

In California, Don started as a machinist with North American Aviation at the founding of their propulsion division. He became involved in the production of thrust chambers and his first project was on a team of people who manufactured rocket engines for military use patterned after V-2 “Buzz Bombs.” The project began with an engine obtained from the Germans during WW ll and the services of Werner Von Braun.

He worked on thrust chambers for communication and surveillance satellites, the first manned spacecraft, the Apollo and Saturn spacecraft, and the lunar excursion module. He met some of the astronauts who visited the aerospace facilities to thank those who had worked on the various spacecraft.

He finished his career in management at Rocketdyne, as a director of their experimental thrust chambers division. His final project was with NASA’s production of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

After a career in aerospace from 1952-1982, Don retired. He and his wife built their dream home with a view of Lake Isabella. Don loved to fish for trout in the Kern River, golfed every week and welcomed his children and grandchildren into his home and took them fishing and waterskiing.

At the end of his life, Don had an opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and children, and his family was able to express their appreciation to him for loving and nurturing them so well. His family will always cherish their many memories of Don as a completely humble, kind, good and loving father and husband who always put the needs of others before his own.

Don was very active in the Elks Lodge and spent years helping them raise money with their bingo program and served as an Exalted Leader at the Kern River Valley and also Five Cities Elks Lodge.

More important, Don believed in the true Exalted Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he believed that he would live forever in Heaven because of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Heaven has welcomed him and the greatest adventure of his life has just begun!