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Obituary: Donald Paul Sturgis

Sixty-year Claremont resident, longtime CPD volunteer, patriarch of large family

Donald Paul Sturgis died peacefully Saturday morning August 13, surrounded by loved ones in the home where he had lived for the past 60 years. He was 90 years old.

Don was born in Parksley, Virginia on January 20, 1932, to Dorsey and Eva Sturgis. Dorsey was a minister and Don was born in the parsonage. The family moved to the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in 1940 and settled in Bradbury Heights, also in D.C., in 1946.

He attended American University from 1949 to 1953 where he was student body president his senior year. He earned a BA in math/physics, and in 2013 attended his 60th reunion, where he was honored as a “golden eagle.”

He furthered his education at West Coast University, earning a Master of Science degree in management in 1976, and a Master of Arts degree in 1978.

He met Mandy Manville in 1952 while attending American University. Mandy had to return home to California the following year, and they wrote each other daily until marrying in 1954 at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, California.

The couple returned to Washington, D.C. where they had their first child, Lynn, in 1955. That same year he volunteered for the draft and was inducted into the U.S. Army. He completed basic training in South Carolina and was transferred to Huntsville, Alabama in 1956, where he was a specialist, 3rd class, mathematical statistician’s assistant.

His son Steve was also born in 1956, in the front seat of a friend’s car. “Steve just wouldn’t wait, and Mandy had Don pull over and deliver Steve,” his family shared. “Fortunately, both mom and baby were fine.”

Following his discharge in 1957, the family moved to California and purchased a home in Glendora. There they had three more children, Nancy, Mark, and Todd.

In 1963, the family relocated to Claremont, as the Glendora home was in the path of the proposed 210 Freeway.  They decided on Claremont largely based on the school system and the proximity to their church in Pomona.   Son Doug was born in 1964, and Tom in 1966.

“Yes, if you were keeping count that is seven children in the span of 11 years,” his family added. “His daughter Lynn said that dad would often joke that we were each born on a different type of birth control.”

Following graduation from American University, he went to work for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in D.C. He worked as a senior systems engineer and manager, marketing services for several companies in the 1960s and ‘70s. In the ‘80s he began his work in the access control field, working for American Magnetics Corporation and Cardkey Systems until his retirement in 1997.

Following retirement, he consulted in the access control industry until he joined the Claremont Police Department’s Community Patrol in 2010. He was the department’s volunteer of the year in 2012 and 2015 and retired with 10 years of service on New Year’s Eve 2020. He also volunteered with the Claremont Community Emergency Response Team for several years.

The couple were active members of Pilgrim Congregation Church. In the 1960s they led its senior high youth group and enjoyed spending time with the couples club “side-by-side,” where they served as presidents. Over the years he was moderator and chair of the trustees and took on several special projects such as overseeing the repair of the church’s stained-glass windows. He also sang in the choir for more than 50 years until he lost the use of the muscles on the right side of his face due to cancer.

The couple also loved to travel and began a tradition of taking one of their grandchildren on a trip each year. Unfortunately, Ms. Sturgis died before all the grandchildren got to spend this special time with them.

Many of the trips included business for him, which meant plenty of time for Ms. Sturgis to shop. Because their son Doug was logistics manager for the band the Eagles, one of their excursions to Europe included an airplane ride with the band to one of their stadium concerts.

After Ms. Sturgis died in 2002, he asked his daughter Nancy and her two children to move in with him. She became his constant companion over the last several years and cared for him through his cancer diagnosis, subsequent surgeries, and follow-ups. She was often assisted by her brother Tom, who also lives in the home.

He loved people and to be of service. Over the years he became a surrogate father to many.

Daughter Lynn said she always thought a poem by Bessie Anderson Stanley could have been written about her dad:

“To laugh often and much,

To win the respect of intelligent people

And the affection of children …

To leave the world a bit better …

To know even one life had breathed easier

Because you had lived,

That is to have succeeded.”

In 2018, he was asked to write “words of advice from granddad.”

“In this time of constant turmoil, fake news and lies, the best advice I can give anyone is speak only the truth, be yourself, be honest with yourself,” he wrote. “1 John 3:18: … let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Mr. Sturgis was preceded in death by his wife Mandy; son-in-law Rob Thornstrom; daughter-in-law Peggy Sturgis; and brother Fred Sturgis.

He is survived by his children Lynn Thornstrom, Steve Sturgis (Stacey), Nancy Sturgis, Mark Sturgis (Sheila), Todd Sturgis, Doug Sturgis (Cheryl) and Tom Sturgis, all whom reside either in Claremont or Upland; grandchildren Todd, Tyler (Jess) and Thomas Thornstrom, Brittany (Andy Scrape), Sarah, Matthew and Michael Sturgis, Aubrey and Brennen Biewener, Brian (Kaitlyn) Sturgis-Jensen, Sean (Megan) Sturgis, Leah (John) Davis, Lauren (Jared) Haston, Paul Sturgis, Ashleigh (Dennis) Sturgis/Perry, Alina Sturgis and Maddie Keehn; great-grandchildren Georgie and Miles Thornstrom, Ben Scrape, Elias and Emma Sturgis, Cooper Davis, Hadley, Cody and Conner Haston, Jameson Perry and Kinsley Keehn; and sisters-in-law Sally Manville and Mary Sturgis.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his name to the City of Hope at https://www.cityofhope.org/giving.

An open house to celebrate Mr. Sturgis’ life will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday October 8 at his daughter Lynn’s home, 1180 Morningside Dr., Claremont, CA 91711.

“In the usual Sturgis style, this will be a casual event, a time to visit and remember Don,” his family shared. “Lunch will be served.”

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