Donald Wray Thayer, 88

Published 7:14 am Monday, June 3, 2019

Donald Wray Thayer, 88, of Austin, Minnesota, passed away Friday, May 31, 2019, at Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin.

Donald Wray Thayer, 88

Don was born on April 21, 1931, in Valley City, North Dakota, the son of Lester and Opal (Burcham) Thayer. He graduated from high school in Glenwood, Minnesota, in 1949. Don went on to attend Hamline University and graduated from North Dakota State in 1958 with a degree in education and a minor in physical education. Don then attended the University of New Mexico for a Masters Degree in education and went back to North Dakota State for education administration. He taught in Wyoming and North Dakota and returned to Minnesota, furthering his education at Mankato State University. Don proudly served his country in the United States Navy for four years. In 1969, he came to Austin to teach music at Ellis Middle School. Don retired from teaching in 1992. On Sept. 8, 1972, he married Shirley Kniffen at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin. The couple met while Don was filling in as the director of the Sweet Adelines. As a young man, Don played tenor sax with many bands and at one time played bagpipes, which was a gift from Shirley. He was a member of St. Olaf Lutheran Church and American Legion Post 91 in Austin. Don was a chef quality cook. He enjoyed playing sports and loved traveling with Shirley, especially to Paris. He studied French and Spanish and enjoyed fishing in Canada and wintering in the Padre Islands. Don was well loved and will be dearly missed by all who knew him.

Survivors include his wife, Shirley Thayer of Austin; Shirley’s children, who were like his own, Cynthia (Larry) Weber of Austin, Michelle (James) Lane of Austin and Lee McDaniel of Cannon Falls, Minnesota; four grandchildren, Melissa (Jason) Kirby, Brad (Leslie) Weber, Amy Tucker and Jamie (Ryan) Norton; 11 great-grandchildren; and brother, Scott (Joan) Thayer of Minnesota. He was preceded in death by his parents, Lester and Opal Thayer; and sister, Gwen.

Email newsletter signup

Funeral services will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, June 7, 2019, at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin with Pastor Mark Niethammer officiating. Visitation will be held from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday, June 6, 2019, at Worlein Funeral Home in Austin and for one hour prior to the service on Friday at the church. Interment will be in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin. Memorials can be directed to St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Austin. Services are prearranged and performed with Worlein Funeral Home of Austin. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at