Donald Frederick Popovich
Born: January 01, 1932 in Dingville, California, USA
Died: April 23, 2015 in Sacramento, California, USA
Born in 1932 to parents John and Pearl Popovich, Don was the eldest of eight siblings who all eventually lived together in a rural farming community near Yuba City, California. Life was not easy in those days; full of hardships, little money, and not enough jobs available. During his formative teenage years, miscellaneous labor positions were difficult to find, and when found, meager pay was not sufficient to meet the cost of his family’s needs, let alone his own. However, he was willing to toil day or night, taking low paying jobs whenever available. Don quickly learned that the price of success was only found in hard work and determination. With this in mind, he managed to get by, earning enough money to buy his own school clothes, shoes, and provide a share of food for the family table.
During these difficult times he started dating and fell in love with his high school sweetheart, Lois Marie Perry. The chemistry between them was so incredible that he sought permission from Lois’s father, Harold Perry, to take her hand in marriage. Mr. Perry’s answer was direct, short and to the point. His approval would be granted only if and when Don secured steady, reliable employment to ensure his daughter would be well taken care of. “Not now young man. Come back with a better offer” was his reply. When dealing with this problem Don was forced to make one of the most important decisions of his lifetime. With Lois on his mind, he decided to serve his county by enlisting in the U.S. Army. He reasoned that this experience would make him more competitive in the local job market, and in turn would gain the acceptance, and approval needed at home to marry the girl of his dreams.
When arriving for duty overseas in Germany he was assigned to the Army’s 184th Infantry Division Heavy Weapons Group under the conditions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). After intensive training he was selected to be the Commanding Colonel’s official driver, which required he be on call twenty four hours a day. This prestigious assignment not only bolstered his self-confidence, but provided him a higher level of maturity, giving him the ability to now form a future life much different than he was used to. With this new found status he assumed responsibility to safely transport high ranking military officials carrying out orders of the day. During this time of service he earned and received the following military medals: National Defense Service Medal; Army Occupation Medal (Germany); and a Good Conduct Medal. After completing his tour of duty he was honorably discharged from active status to the California National Guard to complete his mandatory standby reserve obligation. As a result Don served his country well for eight years, always giving more than expected.
Perhaps the largest turning point in Don’s life was when he reunited with Lois to begin their life together as a married couple. Now armed with his unique driving skills acquired in the army, he was hired by Zellerbach Paper Company as a truck driver to deliver their products. Don was inspired by the freedom, independence and challenges of his work. The special clock in his head assured that all deliveries and pickups were made on time without fail. He thoroughly enjoyed being alone on the road making new friends and serving his clients. Over a period of thirty five years he was honored with many awards including: “Driver of the Year” by the California Safety Center for his two million “accident free” driving miles; and he was also named “Driver of the Month” by the Ryder Drivers from Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. From very meager beginnings, Don created an outstanding record of employment that would shape his life for many years to come.
Don was an avid sports enthusiast, particularly fond of baseball and football. Having played baseball, himself in school, he faithfully followed his team, the San Francisco Giants, as well as the Forty Niner’s. If he was not watching a game on the television, he had one or more ballgames playing on the radio. He would watch practically any sport and would often be seen loudly challenging the referees. He greatly enjoyed lively conversations about each of the different teams and loved to discuss all sports in general.
Above all else, the most important aspect of Don’s life was centered around family, friends and community. As a husband he always spoke of Lois with such love and pride. It was obvious that she was a great source of joy and happiness in his family life during their nearly sixty years of marriage. It was clear that they depended upon one another to pursue a useful and productive life in providing a home and raising a family. It can truly be said that this was a marriage made in heaven. As a father to his children they were constantly aware of his love, support, and willingness to be helpful in any way. As a provider to his family he worked hard for many years to make certain that all of life’s necessities were readily available. As a friend, he was forever there giving a listening ear, providing a helping hand when needed and expecting nothing in return.
In retirement Don thoroughly enjoyed his eleven year membership with the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (B.P.O.E.). He always had a soft spot in his heart for people who were down on their luck or for those who needed assistance in any manner. Trusting in God’s word, he followed the Bible’s teaching, to help those who are suffering and in need. He believed strongly in the charitable values of this lodge. Don volunteered many hours satisfying his need to help as many as possible. During this time he participated in many activities, giving his time whenever asked. He was highly regarded by all that knew him, and he received many awards for his service including: “Elk of the Year” and “Elk of the Month” just to name a couple.
Don was a magnificent role model for anyone who wanted to live life to its fullest. He was rich with family and friends. He took particular pride in the outdoor landscaping of his home, never a weed in his lawn, flower bed or vegetable garden. Shrubbery and trees were always neatly shaped and trimmed. A fallen leaf was quickly removed as it simply didn’t belong there. His faithful companion: “Chili Pepper” his dog, was never absent when he worked in the yard, always near, never letting him out of her sight. Don was always up early to pursue the activities of the day and never in bed before they were completed. His zest for life was present each and every day which should be a lesson for all of us.
Being all part of God’s plan, all of a sudden, he was gone.
It is very painful now and may be for some time to come. However, all we have to do to remember Don is to keep him in our hearts. Especially, for his wife, his family and dearest friends, keep in mind he loved you all so very much, and the love returned made his life complete.
If you listen closely you might hear him say---“Let’s get a breath of fresh air, come with me for a ride…” ---“Everyone pile in, let’s hit the highway…” ---Or “Let’s take out the motorhome and find a new adventure down the road…” The key to keeping Don alive in our hearts is to simply recall some of the wonderful memories he left behind.