Ninety-seven year old Don Gilbertson knows you are never too old to get a college degree. Recently he received a Concordia College diploma for his attendance from 1935-1938. Donald’s service in the Navy, along with 32 years in Lutheran ministry, earned him a Citation of Honorary Alumnus from the college in Minnesota.
In 1938, Don’s education was cut short due to the failing health of his father. Don’s dad worked for the railroad three hours north of his home in North Dakota, so Don left school and moved to provide assistance. Saddened by the loss of his father, and now the primary support for his mother and disabled sister, Don knew he had to find some way to finish college.
Don and his family landed in Tacoma, Washington, after several moves. There, shortly after he enrolled in college, World War II put an abrupt halt to his dream of a bachelor’s degree.
Being deferred from active duty, Don worked in the Tacoma shipyards until he received Navy Ensign training at Notre Dame. He married Jeanette that year, a girl he met in Montana when she was 14 and he was 19. Jeanette was now a registered nurse and Don decided to follow a path in ministry. “I wanted to help younger people,” said Don. He attended Lutheran Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1951.
Orangevale was the family’s home for more than 30 years. The couple raised two sons and two daughters while Don led several Lutheran churches over the years. Don is proud of the bound books called, The Life Story of Donald and Jeanette, which include many photos and memories of his family, and Sermons for Everyday Living, a 600-page book of his sermons compiled by his daughter and granddaughter.
At 97, Don enjoys the pastoral setting of Eskaton FountainWood Lodge during his daily walks around the property. He is very active and participates in many programs including Eskaton Kids Connection where he reads and interacts with elementary school children. Don continues to live a blessed life filled with family and friends.
FountainWood Lodge is home to a diverse group of older adults needing extra assistance with the activities of daily living. Don and his fellow residents receive homemade meals, socialization and regular outings. The staff at the Lodge treat everyone like family.