Longtime Institute worker dies

Published 10:53 am Friday, August 17, 2012

Donald Shaw, a military veteran and a 35-year employee of The Hormel Institute, died Aug. 2. — Photo provided

While sorting through photos of his father in preparation for the Austin man’s funeral, Brian Shaw kept remembering the time outdoors they used to spend together at the family’s summer home.

“We’d go out fishing just about every day when we were down by the water,” Brian said. “He was a fun-loving guy.”

Family and friends gathered for the funeral of Donald Orlin Shaw on Wednesday morning to celebrate a father, brother and friend who put family first. Donald, 94, died Aug. 2 at Our House Assisted Living in Austin, following a series of strokes.

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Donald was born May 25, 1918, to Joseph and Sadie Shaw. He grew up working on various farms around Kanawha, Iowa, before he moved to Austin to work for his uncle.

In 1941, Donald was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in Northern Ireland, England, North Africa and finally in Italy, where he was wounded from a gunshot to the leg. Though he largely recovered at the time, the injury would stay with him for the rest of his life.

“Later on, his legs started giving out because he counted on his other leg all the time,” Brian said.

Donald married Bethel Danley in January 1945. It was the beginning of a 63-year marriage that would end when she preceded him in death by about four years ago. The couple had two sons, Brian and Dennis, with whom Donald often spent time outdoors, especially at his summer home in Lake City.

“I’d been going up there ever since I was born,” Brian said. “He had a lot of friends up there; a lot of them were from Austin.”

It was a vacation spot for the whole family. Brian said he and his father would go hunting when Donald was younger. Donald and Bethel both liked to fish, and also made trips to the casino. They even kept a mobile home and a garage by the campgrounds there.

Donald worked for The Hormel Institute for 35 years, beginning when The Institute was at its old location. He did maintenance and facility work for the building, and kept the boiler running.

The first Institute was housed on a horse barn at the Jay C. Hormel Estate, according to Gail Dennison, director of public relations and development with The Hormel Institute. The location is near where the Austin Country Club and the Jay C. Hormel Nature Centers are now.

In 1960, Dennison said, it moved to its present spot in northeast Austin, where it stayed and eventually tripled in size during a 2006-2008 expansion.

In retirement, Donald starting passing more time up at the summer home, boating and fishing.

“He liked to have a few beers and play cards a lot,” Brian said. “They spent a lot of time up there after they retired.”

When Donald and Bethel’s friends from Arizona would come up to visit, it made for an amusing and confusing game of cards, Brian said. There would be three people named Betty, two named Don and one named John, all gathered around the same table for a game.

“They’d sit around and play cards,” Brian said. When Donald called someone by name, “you didn’t know who he was talking to.”

He would also go on trips with Bethel during his retirement, traveling south to Arizona or Florida. Once, Brian said, they went on a cruise.

Donald kept active in the Austin community throughout his time there. He was a member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

A series of strokes toward the end of his life made Donald’s final days difficult ones.

“He suffered quite a bit in the end,” said Brian, adding that in some ways, Donald’s passing was a blessing because it brought an end to the pain.

Even in death, however, Shaw continues to help The Hormel Institute and improve his community. His family asked that memorials for his funeral either be sent to The Institute to aid in cancer research, or to St. Olaf to benefit the church.