Donald Wray Thayer, 88

Published 7:01 am Saturday, June 1, 2019

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

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 attended Hamline University and graduated from North Dakota State in 1958 with a degree in education and

Donald Wray Thayer, 88

a minor in physical education. Don then attended the University of New Mexico for a Masters Degree in education, then went back to North Dakota State for education administration. He taught in Wyoming and North Dakota, then returned to Minnesota and furthered his education at Mankato State University. Don proudly served his country in the U.S. Navy for four years. He came to Austin in 1969 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 were a gift from Shirley. He was a member of the 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.

Email newsletter signup

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.

Services are pending with Worlein Funeral Home of Austin. Condolences may be expressed to the family online at