Don Niskanen, long-time resident of Ten Mile Creek and Yachats, died on April 9, in Caldwell, Idaho at the home of his daughter, Robin Nolan.
During the Vietnam War, he served as a med-tech in the U.S. Army at a Belgium hospital for wounded combat soldiers. In the 1970’s and 80’s Don lived and worked in Berkeley, CA and assisted the Rev. Dr. Hazaiah Williams, Director of Today’s Artists/Four Seasons. Don was a lifelong champion of racial equality and community building. He was part of the core group that presented the Yachats Music Festival, and at the same time, hundreds of concerts were also presented in both the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City.
During the late 80’s and early 90’s he and his wife, Blythe, operated the New Morning Coffee House and from 1997 to 2005 they propagated old garden roses at Bramble and the Rose Nursery.
Don was instrumental in the purchase of the Yachats School for a community center. He also took over the wetlands project after Jerry Kraft died, and will perhaps be best remembered for initiating the Solstice bonfire, which is still a part of Christmas in Yachats.
Don served as president of Parks and Commons for years and was also president of Friends of the Yachats Commons. He was a founding member of the original One of Us, which began as a fundraiser for a home-school group and continued as a fund-raising event for the Yachats Commons. At one of these memorable events he allowed himself to be shot out of a cannon wearing a pink tutu and tights.
He was a strong human being who took his own path. In this age of individual disassociation and personal gain, Don was a rare man indeed. His achievements and his commitment to the greater good throughout his life will continue to benefit us all. Yachats would not be what it is today if not for people like Don, who are willing to attend too many meetings just to make sure our village voice is heard and heeded.
If you knew Don, you would understand he expressed no desire for a memorial service. The best possible thing you can do in his memory is to make a donation in his name to the Yachats Youth and Family Activities Program (www.yffayouth.net/homepage.html). You can also follow in his footsteps by volunteering for local committees and actively participating in your community.
Don is survived by his wife, Blythe Collins; daughters Robin Nolan and Emily Grey Badger; granddaughter Kathryn Lori Nolan; and brothers Robert Niskanen and James Niskanen.