Donald Geddes died doing what he loved
Donald Geddes died doing what he loved to do: serving others.
Geddes, 82, was killed Monday in an auto accident at the corner of Burndale and Napa roads in Sonoma.
Son Patrick Geddes said his father, a spry former Marine and retired art teacher, was on his way to get plumbing supplies for a project at the home of an elderly member of his church whose husband was incapacitated by dementia.
“It was all about the service,” he said.
Geddes was an active member of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Sonoma, where he served several years as a bishop, organizing church activities and ministering to those in need. His charitable work, however, was not confined to his period as bishop.
One typical example, his son said, was in the late 60s, during a period of heavy rain in Sonoma County. There was some discussion during Sunday morning services about how one member was experiencing flooding in her basement. Without telling anyone, Geddes quietly left the church, went home to get his tools, went to the member’s home and dug trenching to help the water drain away.
Then he got redressed in his church clothes and sneaked back into the services.
“There are dozens, if not hundreds of people who could tell you stories like that, stories he wouldn’t tell you himself,” his son said.
Geddes’ devotion to service stemmed from his youthful experience on the battlefield in Korea. He was a member of the famous First Marine Battalion, a unit that participated in some of the toughest combat of a tough war.
“Like a lot of veterans, he felt a little guilty that he survived and a lot of his friends did not,” Patrick Geddes said. “He felt like he was preserved for some purpose; for him it was his family.”
Geddes returned from the war and met his wife Sandy and converted to the Church of Latter Day Saints. They raised seven children.
Among his many talents, Geddes was a versatile artist, a skill he turned into a 29-year career as an art teacher at Sonoma Valley High School. He was particularly fond of sculpture and made busts as private commissions.
His most famous work was a charcoal portrait of early church leader Brigham Young. The picture has been widely reproduced among Mormons, particularly in Utah, his son said.
Geddes was not, however, widely known outside of the church community in large part because he did not sell most of his work.
“Like many artists, he didn’t like to part with his work,” his son said Wednesday from the family home in Sonoma where his far-flung siblings had gathered to be with their mother. “He never did market his work; most of it is here.”
He took the family on a number of adventures, his son said, starting with a year-long sabbatical in the early 1970s at an art institute in Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His choice was driven by very practical considerations, given that his contract with the high school called for him to receive only half pay during his year off to earn a master’s degree.
“He figured that the only place he could afford to go with seven children on half pay was Mexico,” Patrick Geddes said.
In 1992, after his retirement from the high school, Geddes and his wife moved to China for a year, where both taught English. And over the years, members of the family have accompanied the elder Geddes to Korea to attend ceremonies in honor of the sacrifices of the Marine Corps in the war.
Geddes was raised in Monterey Park, Ca., and is survived by his wife of 61 years, Sandy, and seven children: Donna Quinn of Vancouver, Wa.; Margaret Parducci of Sonoma; Patrick Geddes of Eagle Mountain, Utah; Daniel Geddes of Chino Hills, Lynn Butler of Alpine, Utah; Barbara Austin of Mesa, Az., Sharon Summers Omak, Wa.; and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Sonoma. He will be buried at the Sonoma Veterans Cemetery.