Robert Donald “Don” Somerset, 84, recently of Coffeyville, KS, passed from this life at home, surrounded by family, on February 19, 2018.
He was born June 25, 1933 in rural Pike County, near Troy, AL. Intrigued by science as a teenager, he and his brother, Jim, built a HAM radio set and talked to people all over the world. As television became more and more popular, Don installed TV antennas on the roofs of many Troy homes. He served in the Army National Guard during the Korean war. He met Anne Thomley of Wicksburg, AL, while attending Troy State Teachers' College, and they married on August 23, 1953. Around this time, he and Jim bought a tattered Aeronca Chief airplane, installed a new fabric skin, and learned to fly out of their back pasture. He transferred to Auburn University as a junior and was graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. Making their home in Ft. Walton Beach, FL, Don was employed by Eglin AFB, Vitro Services, and Metric Systems, eventually founding Datacom, Inc., with his brother in 1969.
Don had many interests and hobbies, including flying, gardening, quantum physics, contemplating the square root of negative 1, and reading voraciously. One summer he took a photo a day of a banana tree to document its phenomenal growth, which fascinated him. Another time he analyzed how much energy each electrical appliance in the house was consuming.
Don enjoyed restoration projects especially, whether it was a temperamental 1965 Austin Healey, a 1948 wooden Chris Craft, or a neglected 1948 Ford 8N tractor. He was a proud believer in regular maintenance of machinery and assured his children constantly that if they maintained it properly, it should last a lifetime, whether it was a lawnmower or a handgun. He was distressed to recognize in the 1970s what he termed, the "built-in obsolescence" of the American car industry and carefully instructed his children in how to avoid it. "Buy a Volvo," he advised. "It will last forever if you take care of it."
A serious lover of animals, Don once nursed an injured hawk back to health and in later years allowed a domestic goose to chew his cheek regularly while he held it in his arms because, he said, “That’s the only way he has to communicate.” Don loved the outdoors and working with the soil, growing a massive garden in the family's acre-plus suburban yard. His daughter Beverly remembers him saying, very earnestly, “You girls need to know where your food comes from!” And as usual, he was right.
Don is preceded in death by his parents, James Alfred and Mary Olive Crowe Somerset, and his brother, James Bruce “Jim” Somerset and grandson, Stephen Corey Wittkop. He is survived by his wife, Anne Thomley Somerset, daughters Beverly Wittkop (Stephen), Wendy Haught (Herb), Lisa Somerset, grandchildren Devin, Caitlin, Nathaniel, Emmaline, Kaley, and Tucker, great-granddaughter Melody Kent, as well as his sister, Mary Jo Nelson (Dick).
Visitation will be from 5 pm - 6 pm on Friday, Feb. 23, followed by the Rosary, in the chapel at Ford-Wulf-Bruns Funeral Home, Coffeyville, KS. A Requiem Mass will be offered in the same chapel by The Reverend Father Timothy Geckle, CMRI, on Saturday, Feb. 24th, at 10 am. Don will be buried beside his father, mother, and brother at Pleasant Hill Primitive Baptist Church cemetery, Troy, AL, at 1:00pm on Saturday, March 3rd, 2018, with The Reverend Father Michael Oswalt, CMRI, performing the Catholic burial rite. Pall bearers are Herb Haught, Stephen Wittkop, Devin Somerset, and Nathaniel Haught. Honorary Pall Bearer is Tucker Palanjian. There will be a singing in the church afterward in memory of Don’s parents. Dillard Funeral Home, Troy, AL, is in charge of burial arrangements. The family gratefully accepts gifts of fresh flowers, recognizing them as a kind and noble gesture and a beautiful reminder of God’s love for us. To leave a message of condolence, please visit www.fordwulfbrunschapel.com
Sorry to hear of cousin Donald's passing. Our sincere condolences to all the family. Wish we could be at Pleasant Hill near Troy tomorrow. Dad was real close to Donald and Jimmy and Dad passed recently also. End of an era.
Robert CardwellPost Falls, ID
With a heavy heart you are dearly going to be missed all the way from Texas. You are one of the smartest men I have ever known with the biggest heart. The short years I had the pleasure of taking care of you and Anne I learned so much from you. We had some of the best conversations and you always had the best advice for me. You are heavy in my thoughts and prayers now more than ever. I will greatly miss you may you forever rest in Heaven Don until we meet again. -Robin
Robin RodriguezHouston, TX