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Don was born in a small rented farmhouse near Elba, Nebraska, on May 16, 1932. His parents, John and Sarah Safarik, were newly starting out as farmers during the Great Depression. Don was the first born, and would be followed by five sisters and one brother: Margie, Phyllis, Arlene, John, Carol and Jeanette. Czech and Polish were often spoken at home before the children were school-aged.
As soon as Don was old enough (age 8), he started to work to help his family. By the age of 12 he paid for his own clothes and supplies and earned his own spending money. His strongly ingrained work ethic stayed with him throughout his life.
He was his High School Class President and two of his teachers offered to help him go to college, but he wanted to make it on his own. After working for two years, he joined the Marines in their Aviation Electronics field and was quickly promoted up the ranks to Sergeant. Although he appreciated his time in the Marines, he knew he wanted to realize his goal to enroll in college.
With the GI Bill helping to fund his education and Don wanting to attend a Jesuit Catholic University, he eventually went to Creighton University in Omaha and majored in Business.
In 1957, Don noticed Carol from afar at several Creighton basketball games and was finally able to meet her when one Sunday morning, as he was walking to Mass with his roommate, a car stopped to offer them a ride. The driver was Carol, and the rest is history. Don and Carol were married on August 2, 1958. They soon moved to California, where they raised six children: Kennan, John (Nancy Valencia), Mary (Gil Harris), Frank, Christina (Richard Stensby), and Jim – and enjoyed a 65 year honeymoon.
Being a provider for his wife and family was very important to Don. He always strived to work hard and to produce both opportunities and a safe home for his loved ones. He stressed the importance of education and was proud that he was able to have his children attend private schools and go to college, if desired. He encouraged his children in their choice of careers. Don even went on to further his own education and in 1964 he obtained an MBA from Cal State Long Beach. He accomplished this by taking evening classes and continuing to work during the day.
Don was the consummate gentleman. His politeness, charisma and genuine interest in people allowed him to befriend anyone who was lucky enough to meet him. He made it a point to remember people’s names and to use them often. He also made sure that if someone did exemplary work, he told them so. He was always generous with his praise!
Don was a humble man, and often called himself a “student” of the stock market. He read the Wall Street Journal every day, and learned as much as he could about one of his favorite activities – investing. Due to his constant study and interest, he did very well overall and succeeded in his goal in providing for his wife and family, especially in the later years.
Don was a devout Catholic. His faith was an integral part of his life and he often thanked God for His many blessings, the most important being the 10 grandchildren: Kristin, TJ, John, Shannon, Jeremy, Alanna (Brent Ashby), Christian, Jessica, Shayla and Mariah.
Don stressed three things in life: love of God, love of fellow man, and the value of education. He lived a rich, full life and went to eternal rest on December 21, 2023, at 91 ½ years of age.
In lieu of flowers, please feel free to donate to your own favorite charity, and/or do something kind for someone in Don’s honor.