Donald Wray Chrisman “Don” passed away peacefully at home from natural causes on July 14, 2020, surrounded by loving family. He was just 3 months shy of his 100th birthday.
The son of Harley Benton Chrisman and Cecil Sleeth Chrisman, Don was born on October 17, 1920 in Columbus, Indiana, the youngest of four children. As a boy, he and his brother, Wayne, enjoyed hitching the family goat to their wooden wagon piled high with a cage for the dog and a box with the cat on top. They then circled the neighborhood with their “circus caravan”.
Don was the first in his family to attend college. He graduated from Purdue University in 1942 with honors in Electrical Engineering and immediately entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant, serving in the Air Corps as a Radar Repair and Maintenance Technician. He left the Armed Services as a Captain in 1946 having served in the Aleutian Islands, Newfoundland, and Italy.
After WW2, Don worked briefly as an Electronics Engineer at Farnwell Television and Radio Corporation and as a field agent for the FBI. Turning down an offer to join the newly created CIA, Don joined the Martin Company in January 1948. While employed at Martin, Don held key management and technical positions on the MATADOR, Gemini Launch Vehicle, DYNA-SOAR manned space project and other defense projects. In 1963 he received an MS degree in Engineering Management from Drexel University. Don retired from Martin Marietta in 1979, after 31 years, and continued as a consultant with Xebec Corporation, a company he founded in 1978 with 5 others from industry and government laboratories to work on projects for the US Navy.
Don married Betty Daugherty, “a very good friend” from high school on January 8, 1949. She was the love of his life and he saved every letter she wrote to him. During his career with Martin, they lived in New Mexico, Florida, Baltimore, Maryland and finally settled in Bow Mar, Colorado in 1971 where they fell in love with the outdoor lifestyle of Colorado. They backpacked, hiked, camped and fished well into their 80’s while introducing Indiana relatives to the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. Don took up skiing at age 51 and was particularly proud of his free lift ticket when he reached 80. A member of the Bow Mar Board of Trustees, Don was active in the community and initiated several beautification projects.
Losing his mother to illness at age 12 and his father to a tragic car accident at age 26, Don quickly learned to rely upon his own initiative and hard work. He was a devoted husband and father. A true engineer and craftsman, he loved to tinker and could fix anything and everything.
He and Betty traveled the world including Papua New Guinea, Russia, the Arctic Circle, Patagonia and all 50 states.
Don is survived by his wife of 71 years, Betty Chrisman, daughter Linda Chrisman Oakland, CA, son Jim Chrisman (Phyllis) Bow Mar, CO and 3 grandchildren, Luke Pickrell, Claire Chrisman and James Chrisman.
In lieu of flowers, please donate in Don’s remembrance to CARE, https://www.care.org/.
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