Donald Eugene Rutherford

Donald Eugene Rutherford

Donald Eugene Rutherford, born September 23, 1923 in Lakewood, Ohio, died on Sunday, September 9, 2012 at Agrace HospiceCare in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

Don is survived by his wife, Marilyn Fox Rutherford, four children (and spouses), James Hollis Rutherford, III (and Alice Cummings), Thomas Fox Rutherford (and Sandra Lynn Rutherford), Suzanne Lynn Rutherford and Danilyn Fox Rutherford, and six grandchildren, Georgina Rutherford, Natalie Rutherford, Veronica Rutherford, Sara Rutherford, Ralph Best, and Melitta Best. Preceding him in death are his parents, James Hollis Rutherford and Alta Van Auken Rutherford, and his older brothers, James Hollis Rutherford, Jr. and Lowell Matthews Rutherford, and his son-in-laws, Craig Best and Carlos Klink.

Don graduated from Lakewood High School in 1941 and attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he majored in physics, played basketball, and was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. When Don interrupted his studies to enlist in the Navy he served as a radar technician at the Naval Air Station at Astoria, Oregon. Following the war, he graduated from Cornell, entered the H. J. Heinz Management Training Program in Pittsburgh, and earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering at the University of Pittsburgh.

In November 1952, Don met Marilyn Fox on a blind date. Marilyn was working as an industrial psychologist at U.S. Steel. A month later, Don and Marilyn were engaged; two months later, they were married; a year later, they had their first child. This hasty courtship was the beginning of a 59-year partnership. Don and Marilyn were as crazy about each other in their eighties as they were in their twenties.

Don and Marilyn lived in several locations during the early years of their marriage. The four children were born in four cities with Don’s career leading the way: Jim in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tom in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Suzy in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and Danilyn in New Brunswick, New Jersey. After Don joined St. Regis Paper, the family moved to Barrington, Rhode Island and then Wilmette, Illinois, before settling in Madison, Wisconsin in 1969. In 1972 Don became the general manager of Walker Stainless Equipment Company, in New Lisbon, where he remained for the rest of his career. After retiring, Don and Marilyn served in the International Executive Service Corps and worked as a team on projects in Poland, Russia, the Philippines, and Armenia.

Don inherited athletic talent from his father, James, who played one season of professional baseball. Don was a rangy 6’3″ point guard on the Lakewood High basketball team that lost to Lou Groza’s Martins Ferry squad in the 1941 Ohio state championship final. In the Navy, Don organized a team that played against the Harlem Globetrotters. (He guarded “Curly”, who kept pulling down Don’s shorts.) Don loved sailing, skiing, and ice-skating with his children and grandchildren. He practiced yoga and was an avid tennis player, playing doubles twice a week into his eighties.

Don loved adventures with Marilyn and his children. There were road trips to Ocean City, New Jersey every summer, and later between Madison and Portland, Boulder, Seattle, and Palo Alto. Don was always ready to deliver cars, children, dogs, and furniture from one side of the country to the other. He helped Suzy raise chickens and goats. Marilyn introduced him to feminism, health food, and alternative medicine before these were popular trends. He was almost lost in a storm on Long Island Sound with son Jim and Marilyn’s brother George on George’s thirty-foot trimaran.

When his children ranged further afield, Don followed them. Don went trekking in Nepal in 1979 with sons Jim and Tom while when they were in the Peace Corps. He returned to Nepal in 1985 with Marilyn and Suzy to visit Jim. He visited Danilyn three times in Indonesia, once in Central Java and twice in Biak, West Papua. On his second visit to Biak, he brought a church bell that was donated by the Baraboo Presbyterian Church for the village where Danilyn was based. During a trip to visit Danilyn and her husband Craig in London, Don and Marilyn traveled to the borderlands of Scotland to track down distant relatives. He escorted his granddaughter Natalie to a performance of the Bolshoi Ballet in St. Petersburg, Russia. He traveled twice to Honduras to visit a boarding school founded by his uncle, Harold Brosious.

Don’s mother, Alta, who earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Barnard College in 1917, gave him a love of learning. Marilyn shared this passion and helped Don pass it along to their children, who became a civil engineer, an economist, a geneticist, and an anthropologist. As “seniors,” Don and Marilyn took classes that included economic modeling and structural engineering at the University of Wisconsin. In his later years, Don was an active member of the West Side Rotary Club. Don loved people, and he loved to hear their stories. He made friends wherever he went.

A celebration of Don’s life will be held at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, September 21 at Christ Presbyterian Church, 944 East Gorham Street in Madison. Memorials can be made to Agrace HospiceCare and the West Side Rotary Club.

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