California Institute for Rural Studies

Community Memory Wall in honor of Don Villarejo

why did I think Don would go on forever? because he did not let an obstacle stand in his way. because he had outrun death already. because there was another groundbreaking study that needed to get done. because there was another know-it-all on a soapbox who could use some extra schooling. because he could teach them humility without humiliating them. because he was a giant at a time when too few giants roam. because he was a mensch, a mentor and a friend. because we who walk in his path might someday inspire another to walk in ours, and on and on.  

— Mark Arax

What are your memories of Don?
Please share them with us in the comments.

46 Comments on “Community Memory Wall in honor of Don Villarejo

  1. I am so sad to hear of Don’s passing. Like others, I always assumed that Don would be with us—a tireless and brilliant advocate and scholar—for many years to come and we would continue to benefit from his passion and knowledge. I’ve only known him personally for the last year and half, but got to learn so much from him in that time. In every conversation about strategy to advance policy that serves farmworkers, he provided insight about the efforts that preceded us, while taking interest in and learning from the newer generations coming up behind him. My heart goes out to his family—he always spoke so warmly that I felt his love for them. Thank you for your passion and love of the work and the community, which you shared with us all.

  2. Don meant very much to me; so it has been hard to think of what I could write to justify his influence and general legacy. But after some time, I feel I have to write. And reading what others have written gives me inspiration and warmth.

    I continue to have so many conversations with Don, as I test my ideas and perspective in the framework he exemplified. In that sense he always remains with me. He has been a touchstone for principle and relevance of my work and will continue to be throughout my life.

    It is noteworthy that he definitely did not want to be a father figure to the young activists he influenced. But he was always a friend who made time for people, especially those working in the struggle.

  3. There are people in your life like Don who you “pin” to your memory wall as good folk of inspiration. Don Villarejo was that older and wiser activist from a generation ahead of me and I think I literally sat at his feet in his Davis living room on occasion during the late 70s as I, a naive young college student, was listening and learning and yearning from a real pro. And that Cheshire grin and chuckle. And, yes, he did see no clothes on many “emperors” near and far.

  4. I do not have words adequate to describe my grief at our loss. Don was a mentor, a friend and a constant sounding board for me while I struggled to revive the fading organization that was CIRS in 2009. His great legacy weighed on me and drove me forward. I was so grateful to be able to engage his expertise on several of our research projects, most notably the Salinas Pajaro housing study. But more than that, I was, and will be forever, grateful to his generous spirit of friendship and his endless support. I was always happy to see Don and hear about his latest travels with Merna, his family visits and his newest research endeavors— because he never stopped being curious. My heart goes out to all of his friends, his family, and Merna.

    May his memory be a blessing.

  5. I met Don in 1977 at a Friends of the Farmworker meeting at the Cal Aggie Christian Association house in Davis. Soon after, we were on a baseball team together, a team of activists, some of whom have already posted here. Then, there were many CED (Campaign for Economic Democracy) meetings. His daughters, Amy and Susan, babysat my daughter. I was in a book discussion group with Merna. The Villarejos were integral to my life and remain dear to me. Much later on, in 1995, I joined Don at CIRS as his associate director. In truth, exhausting, but such an honor to work with him. I helped Luis Magana dig out from a roof collapse, held the business/administrative end of the seven communities farmworker health needs assessment, so enjoyed working with a brilliant young team including Merrisa, Dawson, Jennifer and others. Data, documentation, facts. Always clear on direction. Thank you so much, Don. Will miss you forever.

  6. I interacted with Don in the early 2000’s, when working on pesticide safety education evaluation work with the UC IPM Program. I was always so impressed in how he started his career as a physics professor, and then completely pivoted into social science and public health research, with the groundbreaking farmworker health studies that CIRS conducted under his leadership. I appreciated his deep reflection, unwavering commitment to the cause, and his willingness to put glamour and prestige aside and place his brainpower in the service of those most underserved and most invisible in our society.
    Sonja Brodt

  7. As a young activist in 1983, Don gave me sound organizing training, and mentoring based on wisdom. He inspired all of us with his passion to address injustices and to confront power with confidence. He has influenced my actions throughout my life. I still quote wise guidance he told me in 1983. Thank you Don!

  8. When I first started working at CIRS in 2014, I had only recently moved back from living in Pennsylvania for almost 20 years, and that was where I really became involved in farming. There I worked on farms, and eventually had my own business on a larger organic farm, growing specialty vegetables for restaurants. Later I worked for the non profit Fair Food Philadelphia, bringing more awareness of and actual products to the Greater Philadelphia region.

    So when we moved back, I was not really well versed on what had been happening in CA ag. Learning about Don, and the legion of researchers and advocates that he had worked with and mentored, was a revelation. It was like the Don Villarejo version of the “Six Degrees of Separation!” Delving into the CIRS’ archives – and getting to share it with folks as my job – well, this was a dream come true.

    I first got to meet Don a little later, when he heartily agreed to let me interview him about the amazing “Research for Action” guidebook. Though I was nervous and intimidated to meet him, that very quickly dissolved. He was of course so welcoming, warm, funny, and still so engrossed in this work – even if he was supposed to be ‘retired.’ (How many times did he try to retire, lol?) I heard so many great stories that day – not the least of which was about how it came to be that R. Crumb did the comic, “Mr. Appropriate,” for the final page of the book!

    Seeing that what CIRS – and Don – offered was still so unique in the ‘sustainable agriculture’ conversation, inspired us to found the Rural Justice Summit. I am so happy that we could honor his legacy, while he was still with us, by having him in key speaking roles those first two years. My heart swelled as I watched him talk with old friends & colleagues, and meet new folks – the next generation of community advocates and researchers. My thoughts and gratitude are also with Merna & the family, and all of you, too. Rest in power, Don!

  9. One measure of a person’s life may be at its conclusion when reflecting on that individual’s impact. In that light, Don Villarejo was a great man who made a huge difference for thousands of people. I believe Don’s primary contribution was his mind which he used to conduct scientifically sound and meticulous research, providing unquestionable evidence of real-world issues and problems – most often affecting farmworkers and rural communities. Through his skillful writing and gift of gab, he hammered home research results leaving politicians, funders, program providers, agricultural producers, media mavens, and lots of others little room to ignore or deny. And then, Don presented them with well thought-through solutions. He accomplished all this while mentoring, including the subjects of his research, teaching them his skills, and then sending them out into the world to continue this excellent work.
    Don was truly an inspiration, a gift to all of us. As “they” say, he touched many.

  10. Don was an amazing force for justice and truth. The world will not be the same without him, but his significant contributions will live on. Don was deeply engaged in so many different organizations and efforts to make a difference. Too many to count. I met Don through our joint activism in the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED) during the late 70’s and through the 80’s. We served together on CED’s Executive Committee. It was there that I witnessed his sharp mind, strategic thinking, generosity of spirt, and quest for truth. I relied on him for advice and support during that time. I will always remember his infectious smile! Love to Merna and his daughters.

  11. A haiku in honor of Don and his legacy.

    Don Villarejo
    Researcher for the People
    His pen, a fiery lantern.

    I have been inspired by Don since I read his work over twenty years ago and he set a model for the engaged scholar that I have tried to follow ever since. I also had the honor of serving on the Board of CIRS for several years after Don had retired, but remained an important force for the organization, as he remained for the rest of his life. I will do my best to continue his legacy.

  12. I first met Don in the late 1970’s. Don had a heart bigger than most for the forgotten people whether working in the fields or struggling as an immigrant with little to survive. I always enjoyed talking with Don and in meetings hearing his advice. Many lives are better today because of Don.

  13. So many of us shared wonderful critical moments with Don in both our activist and personal lives. I first met Don on the Quad at UCLA in 1972 which makes a five decade long relationship. Don had worked to get William Hinton to give a talk at UCLA about his book Fanshen. We immediately found out that we had progressive intentions for our lives. Since then, we have both given a part of our lives to the needs of farmworkers in California.
    Although Don gave much more by dedicating his professional life to exposing the abuses suffered by farmworkers in California and elsewhere through CIRS. Don made a difference through the impact of his scholarly studies that could not be ignored. Through his tedious work, Don’s voice was heard and had results.
    Through different ways Don came to Davis and I later came here to. Our friendship and our wives friendship (Merna and Ann) graced many a meal or a Thanksgiving Holiday at their table. Everyone is correct, Don had a wonderful sense of humour and in our later years Don and I celebrated various occasions not through hugs but raucous sets of belly bumps. Who cares if it was a little gauche it was love in action. Don gave his love generously and easily to those he cared for. Don achieved so much, upset the power brokers and let his work become the voice of humble farmworkers. Don you will be missed by many but you impacted multitudes. Merna, Ann and I send our condolences and will be with you during this time and for years to come.
    Love Ann and David

    Ann Evans and David Thompson

  14. I was honored to be Don’s friend. I met him through my wife, Barbara, who was a friend of Merna. We got together for lunch, found out that we liked each other and had many interests in common, especially farm labor in California, and formed a bond that lasted for years. We got together as couples, went to the opera, went to Paris, had fun. Don and I used too meet regularly for lunch. Early on, we had to meet at places that had a full bar, so he could have his one martini. Lately, we met at Burgers and Brew, where Don had a lemonade. It didn’t matter what we drank, the important thing was the quality of the talk, and the humor. Don and I discovered that we liked to laugh together. No matter the seriousness of the topic, we could always find something ridiculous or amusing to laugh at. I was always impressed by Don’s detailed memory of events that had occurred, his sharp analysis of what had happened, his comments and prognosis of what we should do next. He never flinched from stating the truth as he saw it. He always pointed out when the emperor had no clothes — even when it was someone close to home. I will miss him profoundly.

  15. I reached out to Don via the CIRS on multiple occasions for help making sense of my research on immigrant legal status and health using data from the National Agricultural Workers Survey. Don responded with such a generous, warm spirit, so eager and willing to help. He put me in touch with Rick Mines and facilitated my access to and use of his own CA Agricultural Workers Health Survey. He then became a good friend of my father’s (John Hamilton) through the University Retirement Center. It was always wonderful to hear updates from my Dad about Don — how smart, thoughtful, and active Don was in their various social and friendship groups. I feel fortunate to have known Don through two different communities–the URC and the research world–and I am inspired by his legacy: the knowledge he created, the lives he touched, the people he helped, the relationships he formed.

  16. I worked with Don at CIRS on research to expose the ways that the Westlands Water District was collaborating with water users to evade federal laws requiring limitations on low cost water contracts. This case went to federal court and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (where I later became Executive Director) was one of the plaintiffs.

    In a second research project, we used publicly available sources to gain a better understanding of the structure of ownership versus leasing of land by farmers of three important California crops.

    I learned more about agriculture and research methodology during my years working at CIRS than I did in the years that I gained a Bachelors and Masters degree from the U.C. system.

    I am sad that I will be unable to attend the event on December 7th, but I have been thinking deeply about Don and his legacy in the last week.

  17. Don was one of the first people I went to see when I began to report and write about farmworkers—a subject about which I knew little. From that first conversation through many more over almost two decades, he was unfailingly generous with his time and knowledge, insightful about people, policies and systems, always so committed and enthusiastic that you came away not only smarter but convinced the world could change for the better. He was a force of nature. Like so many others here, I learned so much from him. As Mark said so eloquently, it seemed as if he would always be there to fight to next battle, as only he could.
    Miriam Pawel

  18. Don always represented for me a person who had found his own joyous path of truth and meaning in life. Forever a warrior for justice, he was relentlessly kind and indefatigably cheerful. His was a life well lived.

  19. I was devastated when I heard that we had lost Don. A week later I still find it hard to accept. I know how much he meant to Merna and his daughters and I simply do not have words for my sympathy.
    I first met Dpn in 1989, when I was responsible for 1,200 striking Teamster farmworkers in Huron, part of 5,000 workers striking across California and Arizona. When this middle aged white guy wearing a dress shirt and a straw cowboy hat and carrying a camera showed up on the picket line a week into the strike I was sure that he was from some tiny left organization that had come to lead the workers. My first words to him were, “Who the f**k are you?”
    That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and collaboration that lasted 32 years. We worked together for ten years on the lawsuits that came out of that strike, and I eventually served ten years on CIRS’s Board.
    I continued to rely on Don up into and through the pandemic as a mentor, a sounding board, and an amazing friend.
    Don had an amazing combination of dedication to working people, brilliant intellect, and self deprecating humor.
    I think that the most impressive thing about him may have been his dedication to visualizing and working towards a better future while never being willing to fudge the facts that characterize the present. No matter how righteous the cause, if the hard data was not there to back him up, Don would never, ever fudge. He would just go out and get the data.
    At first this could be annoying to a pragmatic Teamster organizer, but over time I truly understood that this commitment to the data was not some artifact of his training as a physicist, but was at the core of who he was, that it was a commitment to truth and to principled action, no matter the cost.
    He was a friend, a mentor, and a true comrade.
    Don Villarejo! PRESENTE!

  20. I first knew of Don through his colleague Prof. Isao Fujimoto. I worked for Isao as a Teaching Assistant to organize ABS-47, intensive 4-day field trips for UC Davis students. They were emboldened to investigate potential career paths at social agencies in San Francisco. Don liked to say that the California Institute for Rural Studies was like “IRS” with a “C” in front of it. He was a favorite resource for leading investigative journalists who wanted to know of major economic forces generating $47 billion dollars annually, i.e., 12.5 % of ag production in all 50 states. Who benefited from such immense largesse? Who did not?

  21. My condolences to Don’s family and friends. I first met Don as a new lawyer at CRLA in the 70’s working on the agricultural mechanization case. What a great good fortune to be exposed to his creativity, sharp wit, delightful smile and laugh and unshakeable commitment to academic relevance in the fight for farmworker justice. Lessons learned from Don will sustain our memories and his legacy. May his memory be a blessing.

  22. I only knew Don and Merna as they booked a trip through me to Japan. They were the kindest clients and I was touched to hear they had such a great time on the trip I planned. They even wrote me a testimony which is featured on my home page (with a lovely photo of them). I’m so sorry to hear this news and wish Merna all the best.

  23. Like several others here, I knew Don and Merna in their Univ. of Chicago days. Don’s commitment to social justice and a free society was a striking characteristic, even among others involved in left student politics. He followed both his head and his heart and he offered an inspiring life story of commitment and dedication. And they took me out to a good meal when I was in S.F.

  24. Don will always be a guiding light for selfless determination. He will continue to help us take that next important step. We cant stop and we know he remains with us.

    Dick Holdstock

  25. I met Don Villarejo in 1976 when we both worked on the campaign for Proposition 14, the farmworker election initiative. After the election, Don introduced me to Kathy Bertolucci, an aspiring activist from Sacramento, and to the idea that we might get funding to support ourselves as community activists. We drew up papers to incorporate two non-profit corporations, a political organization, the California Agrarian Action Project and the charitable California Institute for Rural Studies, with friends and colleagues as the first board members. We decided to take on the issue of agricultural mechanization, which had devastated hopes for farmworker unionization locally. With a grant from the Vanguard Foundation, we expanded on the research I had done for my senior project at UC Davis on the impacts of mechanization and the ties between the University and agribusiness. Don began to document the agricultural interests of University Regents, and Kathy and I searched public records offices for further information while touring college campuses and Don’s network of activist friends with a slide show and 15 panel exhibit on the harms of mechanization and the ties between corporate farmers and the University. Meanwhile, CIRS received its first grant, funding from the US Department of Labor to study the status of mechanization in fruit and vegetable harvests and prospective impact on farm employment. Don’s PhD was enough to qualify as a principal investigator, and he was correct in assessing that it did not matter that it was in physics!

    In the early 80’s I moved to Salinas, supported my work as an activist with many projects, including CIRS supported work on pesticide safety. By the late 80’s I began to shift my focus away from agriculture to health care, and because of the geographical and subject matter differences, I am sorry to say that Don and I fell out of touch.

    Don taught me that it was possible to be an activist and make a living. I learned from him how to be a public speaker, recruit other volunteers, run an election campaign, and write a grant proposal. He was also a role model as dad and husband. I was a lucky 23 year old to find him to be my mentor and I will be forever grateful.
    Paul Barnett

  26. In the late 70’s, I’d get calls from Don to go through land and water records at the hall of records in Bakersfield. I’d leave early for lunch at the County Clerk’s office, dash across the street and get back to work late. You could never say no. Don was a great organizer who made you feel you we’re doing the most important work, because he carefully explained why he needed that blueprint of that land parcel. Always kind, he took his time to really listen to you. Being Heard by him left a lifetime impression on this young organizer — 45 years later. He brought out the best in people.
    — David Peck
    Pfaffenhofen an der Roth, Germany

  27. I believe in spirits that walk my farm and the lands of California. Don will now join the others who have labored to make our world a better place. His passion for the common good, to struggle against injustice, to add research and information to the story of who we are and what we can achieve – his ghost is a welcomed companion to the fields and communities of rural California. He has left a mark on our earth that will not be forgotten. I will look for his footprints in my fields and the fingerprints of his legacy with each passing season and harvest.

  28. Our thoughts go out to Don’s wife and family and all of his larger family of friends, associates, advocates, and communities who all gained from their relationships with Don and CIRS. I first met Don during my work as an attorney with CRLA where we worked on the mechanization lawsuit against UC and later in our work with the founding of the Monterey County Pesticide Coalition where we pursued the first field posting ordinance in California with Don’s support and counsel. Don was always the “go to guy” with anything and everything related to sustainable agriculture, sustainable employment of farmworkers, and the creation of safe work places.
    Don’s spirit and legacy will live with all who knew and loved him. Our thoughts and condolences to Don’s family… Senator Bill Monning (ret) and Dr. Dana Kent VIVA DON VILLAREJO!!!!!!

  29. Don never stopped. I first knew him when we were students at the University of Chicago in the ‘50s, a period remembered for the atmosphere of McCarthyite oppression of all forms of progressive though and action. Don was not oppressed. Along with others of our group, I benefitted enormously from his consistent vision during the creation of New University Thought. I learned much from his spare-time research on stock ownership and the control of corporations, which he did while pursuing his Ph.D. After 1960 we went different ways in our professional lives, but when he contacted me in 2015, I was not surprised to learn that he was still pursuing his vision of a better America and a better world. I was happy to add a little to his review of activism by people of our generation during the ‘50s, before the formation of SDS. Like everything he did, it was a careful, thoughtful appraisal with an optimistic outlook.

  30. Don was a very special person and will be widely missed.

    In 2019, our family remembered the centenary of my husband’s birth (11-2-1919). We asked friends, family and co-workers of his to share a written memory with us, which we compiled. Don sent a very detailed response, which we want to share with you now, as it says much about Don.

    We know that Don was a special person to Mack, and I appreciated also getting to know him and his passion for justice. I have been pleased to get some messages from him even this past year about important issues. I am grateful that we stayed in touch through our many moves from Stockton area to New Mexico to Honduras for 18 years and now to Northern Virginia, this last to be closer to the grandchildren now in college.

    Wishing you well as you grieve Don’s loss. All of us who knew him will miss him.

    Nancy Warner, Alexandria, Virginia

  31. My condolences to Don’s family.
    I had the pleasure to have worked with Don on a farmworker health project some 30 years ago. I brought him to Michigan as a consultant to our project. He cared deeply about the farmworker community and was a thru farmworker champion. May he rest in peace.
    -Rene Rosenbaum

  32. Don was always respectful to everyone, even those he disagreed with. He was tireless in advocating for those with little power, backed up with scientific grounding. One of the things I will miss about Don is his laugh. It was unabandoned and gleeful. I first met Don when we moved to Davis in 1986 and his office was on the top floor of the CA House on Russell blvd. He convinced me to testify in Sacramento about abuses to the Reclamation Reform Act. I’m not sure how it all happened, but there I was, with a newly minted doctorate, facing some government agency. Below is a link I found to some of this work that Don had uncovered and was advocating for. I will never forget his zeal for justice. May we all, who were touched by him, carry a piece of his generous character in our lives and be thankful…

    In respect and remembrance
    –Gail Feenstra

  33. I am most sorry to hear of Don’s passing. We were graduate students together at Chicago back in the 1960s and kept in contact off and on over the years. He was a very good experimental physicist who turned his considerable talents to helping farm workers in California. I know he had a remarkable impact in that area.
    Please convey my sympathy to Merna
    -Albert Parr

  34. It was indeed with great sadness hearing about Don’s passing. In addition to everything that has been and will be said about him, Don was a personal mentor for me and others. When I arrived to Davis in 1983 to start an occupational health program, the obvious focus was agriculture. But where to start and how to gain access. This was particularly a challenge given UC Davis’ close association with the agriculture industry. Don was instrumental in my focus on farmworker health and provided many important entrees into that reality. He was critically important in my efforts to change the national perspective on agricultural health to include the labor intensive agriculture practiced in California. This was ultimately successful in UCD being selected as one of the first two NIOSH sponsored ag health and safety centers, and the Center’s focus on immigrant worker health issues.

    I was particularly grateful that Don maintained his scientific research skills at the same time as he advocated for farmworker health. Finally he believed in outreach engagement and used the science in his advocacy. IN so many ways he was a model of the engaged researcher that I wish was more common.
    He will be greatly missed.
    -Marc Schenker

  35. Please extend the condolences of all of us at Farmworker Justice to Don Villarejo’s family. I had the pleasure of collaborating with Don on and off for over 25 years as we at Farmworker Justice sought to be helpful to improve farmworkers’ labor protections, immigration policy, health care access and other aspects of their living and working conditions. Don was always generous with his substantial expertise and supportive of our efforts. We are sorry for your loss.

  36. To many Don was known best a dedicated activist who contributed mightily to
    causes he believed in.

    But, he was especially effective because he was also a serious scholar who
    wanted to know the facts and relationships surrounding the issues. And, maybe
    as important, he was a kind person who treated others, even those with whom he
    might disagree, with honest appreciation and consideration.

    I knew Don professionally for 30 years or so, and over that time my respect
    for his work continued to grow. On those occasion when I had the chance to see
    him in person it was always a treat. I still remember when, after a decade of
    crossing paths professionally, we enjoyed recognizing that we had the
    University of Chicago in common, even if separated by a decade.

    -Dan Sumner

  37. Please know how very sad I am to hear of Don Villarejo’s passing. He was a major inspiration to me as a young scientist who came from working in agroecology and sustainable ag in Nicaragua in the mid 1980s to then do my MS and PhD at UC Davis in plant pathology. However I then joined the UC Sustainable Ag Research and Education program where I got to know Don as he served on our public advisory board.

    He had so many years of experience and knowledge of social justice and social science research and how to use academic programs to benefit the wider and whole community rather than just ag business/industry.
    – Jenny Broome

  38. Don changed my life. He taught me how to lead with intelligence, compassion, strategic intention and with the goal of having a real impact towards justice. I would not be who I am without his mentoring and support.
    After a lifetime of service to this world I know that he is resting in peace. But I am weeping in mourning.

  39. I was saddened to hear of Don’s sudden passing. I have worked with Don on and off for over 40 years. He started me down the path of farmworker advocacy while I was a CRLA intern in the late ‘70s during law school at UC Davis working on the Ag Mechanziation litigation against UC. We worked together on many projects over the years. I was fortunate enough to fund Cal Ag Workers Health Survey (CAWHS) while at TCE, and collaborate more recently on the COVD farmworker studies.

    Don was an incredible mentor to me and many others, a meticulous researcher, a perceptive policy and political analyst and above, a wonderful human being.
    He will be sorely missed.
    -Joel Diringer

  40. My thoughts and condolences to the Villarejo family. It was beyond an honor to get to know and work with Don. I enjoyed sharing space with him on our Wednesday calls. He was always so knowledgeable, very dedicated to the agricultural community, and a steadfast leader. I will always remember Don stepping up since the beginning of the pandemic to ensure food sector workers were always protected and would always lend a hand whenever asked and was needed. I know workers are better off because of his work. I will never forget Don and the impact he made on my life and work and hope to one day do a fraction of what Don did for the community. This is such a shock, and tragic loss. But, I find comfort in all the ways Don has touched and impacted everyone he has come into contact with. His legacy will live on in our work and through each of us he supported.
    – Jassy Grewal

  41. Que triste noticia. Hemos perdido a alguien muy importante en nuestra lucha. No tuve el placer de trabajar de cerca con Don pero tengo la fortuna de continuar trabajando y caminando el camino que él empezó. Que descanse en paz nuestro querido Don. Su cuerpo no está con nosotres pero seguiremos honrando su legado y su trabajo.

  42. I am deeply saddened at this news. Don has been my mentor since graduate school. He has always been there with brilliant ideas, encouragement, and techniques to conduct research and examine data like no other. He has influenced me and all of us in important ways. I am forever indebted to him. We had a phone call date for next week to talk about COFS and farmworkers and catch up on our lives. I will miss him so much.
    Que descanse en paz querido Don.

  43. Dear CIRS community,

    I just heard about Don and am writing to share my love and condolences with you. Don was just on our Rural Research Network call a few weeks ago and I was hoping to see him again tomorrow for our second gathering. He was so full of enthusiasm and wisdom last month; it’s hard to believe he won’t be there on video tomorrow.

    Don’s life and work will long remain an inspiration for me. Thank you for all you do in the CIRS community to continue building toward rural justice. I’m sending love and care to Merna, everyone at CIRS, and all those who knew and loved Don.
    With care,

  44. I just met Don through the COFS project and was so impressed with his knowledge, kindness and great politics. What an activist spirit. I feel blessed to have known him…even through zoom. Que descansa en paz.
    -Lynn Stephen

  45. Don provided a lot of mentorship and technical assistance to the farmworker unionization campaign that began in 2020 at Allen Bros Fruit Packing House in Naches, Washington. He was able to support us to get crucial information about the employer and the six others that obseved strikes in that period. Through his volunteer support, we were able to advance the campaign that resulted in the first Female agricultural worker led union in the United States of America, Trabajadores Unidos por la Justicia. Further, his mentorship in the research design of COFS helped me to be able to use the same technique in my role at the Washington State Department of Health and the pandemic emergency response, in the appendices of the DOH Agricultural Vaccine Allocation document ( you will see estimates of Agricultural workers in Washington State, this was his method that he taught to me and I taught to the Incident Management Team and this plan, literally cut and pasted from the collaborative work we did via the WA COFS project, caught the eye of the CDC/NIOSH as a best practice that they want to expand to the rest of the nation. On December 9, 2021 we will be presenting to their Farmworker Interest Group, and will definitely use the platform to remember his heart felt contributions to the wellbeing of agricultural workers in the United States.

  46. I met Don maybe twice, once when I was conducted some dissertation
    research in the early 1990s at CIRS and another time over a dinner, I
    believe, where we shared perspectives on the UFW’s early strategies.

    I found him to be both wise and generous, exceptionally encouraging of
    the “junior” scholar I was at the time. I have no doubt that the planet
    was a better place for Don’s life’s work. He will be missed.
    Julie Guthman

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