By Jean Lotus
Donald Peaslee, 85, former owner of Peaslee Hardware (now Schauer/Do It Best) and former president of the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce during the 1960s and '70s, died on April 26, 2012. Born on Jan. 18, 1927 in Oak Park to Eugene and Isa Peaslee, he grew up at 917 Chicago Ave. and attended Holmes Elementary and Oak Park and River Forest High School.
He served in the U.S. Army at Ft. Sheridan and received his undergraduate Bachelor of Arts degree from Berea College Kentucky. Later he attended the University of Minnesota, working toward his Ph.D. in education from 1952-1958. He left to join his father at Peaslee Hardware Company in Forest Park, the store his grandfather helped found in 1910. He became co-owner of the store in 1958 until he sold it in 1987 to the Schauer family, said his wife Betty.
Peaslee, who lived with his family in Oak Park, also had a lighthearted side, said Virginia Cassin, who, with her late husband Bill, were members with Don and his wife in Phi Sigma, a literary society in Oak Park that has existed since 1878. Don had been a member since 1961, she said.
"He was lovingly droll," Cassin recalled, "a man with real intelligence and a sense of humor. He was great at giving papers once a year at a special, sprightly and humorous meeting."
Peaselee was a valued member, one of the first males, of Oak Park's Nineteenth Century Club (now the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association), which he said he joined to get a good meal on Mondays. "I had suffered during the years when [Betty] said, 'I had a big meal at noon today so we're just having a snack tonight,'" he joked on the club's website.
Because of his hardware experience, he was soon in charge of the building and grounds at the club.
"Whenever anything needed to be fixed or taken care of, Don took care of it," said past-president Sherlynn Reid, "and he always did it with joy and pride."
He was computer savvy, too, said Reid. "He was very good at layout and design. He did [promotional materials] for our benefits." And he participated in Phi Sigma via computer feed when he was too ill to attend personally, said Cassin.
A member of the Oak Park Rotary Club, he was also vice president for 10 years of the Benign Essential Blepharospasm Research Foundation and served as president of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory.
His first marriage to Gretchen Larson ended with her untimely death in 1973. His marriage to Betty Barr in 1975 joined two families and they were happily married for the last 37 years. Theirs was the first marriage to take place in the newly merged First United Church of Oak Park, where the family remained very active.
Betty fondly remembers some of the travails of merging two families of five children, ages 11-19. The first attempt to unite the families was by vacationing in tiny quarters on a houseboat on the Mississippi River with four out of the five children. Back at home, issues such as the proper type of Christmas lights, dinner hour time, and food choices all had to be navigated and negotiated. Artichokes and olives were found to be the common denominator. As the years passed, with Don's encouragement and humor, the family melded beautifully.
Don Peaselee was the father of Susan Marotta (Mark), Andrew Peaslee, Katharine Tyler (Robert), Diana Long (David), Kristin Barr (Arien Malec); the grandfather of Tim Tyler (Jon Schildt), Charlie Tyler, Christine Arnold, Katharine Long, Anthony Marotta (Christal), Michael Marotta, Lisa Marotta, Thalia Barr-Malec, Xavier Barr-Malec, and Abigail Peaslee; and three great-grandchildren.
There will be a memorial service on Saturday, May 12 at 1 p.m. at First United Church of Oak Park, 848 Lake St., Oak Park. In lieu of flowers, donations to First United Church of Oak Park or Tuberous Sclerosis, P.O. Box 79606, Baltimore, MD 21279 or Crohns & Colitis Foundation, 386 Park Ave, 17th floor, New York, NY 10016 are appreciated.
Arrangements were handled by Drechsler Brown & Williams Funeral Home, Oak Park.