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Ex-Depoe Bay mayor, 92, buried to military honors

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Remembered mainly as a beloved teacher and pillar of his community, few people knew ex-Mayor Don Wisniewski of Depoe Bay was a war hero who served with the battle-hardened 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War, 1951-53.
Remembered mainly as a beloved teacher and pillar of his community, few people knew ex-Mayor Don Wisniewski of Depoe Bay was a war hero who served with the battle-hardened 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War, 1951-53.

DEPOE BAY — Former mayor, Don Wisniewski, who passed away in Salem, Ore. on July 18, 2021 was buried Thursday, Aug. 5, with military honors befitting a hero at Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.

Whether recalled as an inspiring junior high teacher, an all-business mayor or a civic-minded Lion, few knew “Wiz” served with the battle-hardened 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War, 1951-53. More than 800 of his comrades lost their lives at legendary battlefields such as Hill Eerie and Old Baldy while fighting-off attacks by Chinese and North Korean armed forces.

Fewer still are people in Depoe Bay alive to remember Mayor Don Wisniewski at the gavel for two terms from 1987 to 1990. One old-timer, however, recalls a no-nonsense mayor who ran a tight meeting, objecting to non-agenda surprises and speculative discussions. “He wasn’t a dynamic mayor who wanted to change the city wholesale,” reminisces former Spouting Horn owner Betty Taunton, who sat on the town planning commission for 20 years. “But running meetings that aren’t exciting and are on time can be a good thing. I liked him.”

Like other war veterans, Don Wisniewski returned to a life of peace, family and public service, including an active civic life that began when he retired from teaching in 1986. He served two terms as mayor of Depoe Bay and was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow and Helen Keller Benefactor Awards for his international humanitarian trips and service.
Like other war veterans, Don Wisniewski returned to a life of peace, family and public service, including an active civic life that began when he retired from teaching in 1986. He served two terms as mayor of Depoe Bay and was awarded the Melvin Jones Fellow and Helen Keller Benefactor Awards for his international humanitarian trips and service.

Agreed his daughter, Patti Forcier, “When it came to politics, Dad was pretty stoic. He did a lot of listening, but once he processed all the information it was time to vote and move on.”

To Patti, Don Wisniewski was the most exciting man in the world, calling him “my best friend.” He taught her to shoot skeet and deer, and to flyfish when she was “elbow high” to her dad. It wasn’t long before she inherited the pioneer Wisniewski family’s outdoor traditions from Don, like deer meat sandwiches and pie crusts made with bear lard.

His obituary, published by Farnstrom Mortuary at FarnstromMortuary.com, portrayed a man deeply committed to his family and community:

“Donald Lewis Wisniewski, 92, of Monmouth, Oregon passed away in Salem, Oregon on July 18, 2021.

“Don was born in Toledo, Oregon on August 7, 1928 to Charles and Lillian S. Wisniewski of Depoe Bay, Oregon. He spent much of his life living on the land his grandparents homesteaded after immigrating to the United States from Poland.

“Don married his wife, Janice “Faye” (Roberts) Wisniewski, on October 25, 1974 in Depoe Bay, Oregon. He is survived by his wife Faye, his children Patti Forcier, Bill Smith, Brenda Holan, Gary Smith, Rick Smith, and Dawn L. Holmstrom; 18 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents, Charles and Lillian; daughters, Vikki Skriver and Kathi Ford; brothers, Kenneth and Charles Wisniewski; and granddaughter D’Laney Ford.

“Don graduated from Taft High School in 1946. Shortly after high school, he was drafted into the Korean War and was a member of the 45th Infantry Division out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Upon his return from Korea, he attended and graduated from Oregon College of Education. Don worked as a junior high school teacher and coach, for 30 years, at Taft Junior High School in Lincoln City. Students and staff alike fondly referred to him as “Wiz”.

“Don was no stranger to hard work. Prior to becoming a school teacher and serving in the military, he started working a variety of jobs at age 11, including haying, picking berries, driving trucks, tractors, dumptrucks, commercial fishing, working at sawmills, and bought fish for the New England Fish Company and Depoe Bay Fish Company – servicing up to 120 boats a day and over 50,000 pounds of fish at a time. After his retirement, he enjoyed transporting vehicles for Gesik and Power car dealerships.

“Don was a proud public servant. After his retirement in 1986, he served two terms as mayor of Depoe Bay. He also was an officer and President for the Lincoln County Education Association, Director of the Lincoln County TA Bank, a member and Treasurer of the Lincoln Beach Kernville Water District, a member of the Elks, served on the Depoe Bay City Council, and the Knights of Columbus at St. Augustine Catholic Church, in Lincoln City. He was a proud member of both the Newport Lions and North Lincoln County Lions, where he served as President. Most recently, he was a member of the Central Lions Club. With the Lions, Don participated in international humanitarian trips and was awarded with the Melvin Jones Fellow and Helen Keller Benefactor Awards for his service.

“Not only did Don have a passion for public service, he also had a passion for hunting, fishing, and traveling the world, where he made friends everywhere he went. As an avid hunter and fisherman, Don had the opportunity to provide for his family with deer, elk, moose, antelope, bear, salmon, halibut, tuna, and much more. He also provided opportunities for many of his friends to experience moose hunting opportunities in British Columbia, where at the age of 88, he tagged last moose showing the young guys how it’s done.

“As a traveler, Don loved to immerse himself into the culture, people, and history of the places he visited. He trekked through numerous countries across four continents. He also enjoyed traveling with his family on road trips, including adventuring to Alaska, across the United States, and various national park tours.

“One of Don’s most proudest adventures was in 2018, when he was honored with an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C. giving him the opportunity to visit the memorials dedicated to those who have served and sacrificed for our country. While there, at the request of Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representative Kurt Schrader, he was presented with the flag of the United States of America, which flew over the United States Capitol, to honor him for his service to our country during the Korean War.

“Don was a proud Korean War Veteran and returned to South Korea with the Korea Revisit Program. He participated in and was honored at several veterans events, including the Albany Veterans Day Parade, Korean War Veteran medal ceremonies, and also enjoyed celebrating with and honoring local Korean-American citizens.

“In 2008, Don and Faye moved from the coast to the Monmouth-Independence area, where they were immediately greeted with open arms by their neighbors and friends. Without hesitation, Don jumped right in and embraced the community. He attended college courses at Western Oregon University, volunteered, joined the Central Lions Club, St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, and the Monmouth Fitness Center, which became his home away from home.

“Interment with military honors will be Thursday, August 5, 11:30 am at Willamette National Cemetery, Portland, OR. A Celebration of Life will be Saturday, August 7, 1-4 pm at the family home, 415 Martin Way S, Monmouth, OR.

“In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Central Lions Club, 289 S Main St, Independence, OR 97351, or Willamette Valley Hospice, 1015 3rd St NW, Salem, OR 97304.”

As an avid hunter and fisherman, Don Wisniewski went to British Columbia, where at the age of 88, he tagged his last moose, “Showing the young guys how it’s done!”
As an avid hunter and fisherman, Don Wisniewski went to British Columbia, where at the age of 88, he tagged his last moose, “Showing the young guys how it’s done!”

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Rick Beasley
Rick Beasley is a simple writer who collects sniper rifles for a hobby. During an astonishing publishing career that spans five decades and continues at Lincoln City Homepage, he has collected 17 awards for excellence in journalism from various organizations including nine first-place Best Writing awards from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Fair well to another of our great veteran brothers slowly time is taking away. May he rest in peace we need to keep there history alive as time passes not to be forgotten for what they have all done for our nation the veterans of all wars and other actions.

  2. Rick,
    What a wonderfully written tribute to my Dad. Thank you for honoring him with your words. It is very appreciated by his family and will help to “lighten the load”.

    Patti

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