Donald Rea Tusch was born October 21, 1930 to Ernest Otto Tusch and Gladys Tusch, in Minneapolis, MN. He had one sister, Mary Jane. As a young child, Don had medical problems that were exacerbated by cold and the family doctor warned that they must leave the cold climate to help him survive. Accordingly, his dad sold his grocery business, rented out their home, and in a new De Soto moved west. The plan was to try three locations for one year each, then pick the place to settle. After trying Arizona, San Diego and Portland, OR, the family settled in San Diego in 1941. Don attended Roosevelt Jr. High and graduated from San Diego High...
Donald Rea Tusch was born October 21, 1930 to Ernest Otto Tusch and Gladys Tusch, in Minneapolis, MN. He had one sister, Mary Jane. As a young child, Don had medical problems that were exacerbated by cold and the family doctor warned that they must leave the cold climate to help him survive. Accordingly, his dad sold his grocery business, rented out their home, and in a new De Soto moved west. The plan was to try three locations for one year each, then pick the place to settle. After trying Arizona, San Diego and Portland, OR, the family settled in San Diego in 1941. Don attended Roosevelt Jr. High and graduated from San Diego High School. As a high school student, he studied photography, set up his own darkroom and had a small business selling portraits. He attended San Diego State College where he was encouraged to study nuclear physics, but the financial responsibilities of an early marriage and fatherhood redirected him to business pursuits. He held a variety of jobs in his early 20's, including dishwasher, ditch digger, gas station attendant, painter and lead manager at Kettenburg Boat Works in Pt. Loma, and postal carrier.
Don's interest in construction may have its origins in adolescence, when his father sold the family's grocery store and purchased some fixer-upper homes in east San Diego. Don was the termite killer and did structural repairs while his father painted. Later, during his four years as a postal carrier, he built his first home during his spare time after completing his postal routes. He established his own construction company, building custom homes and small apartments until 1962, when he began to specialize in larger apartment complexes.
Meanwhile, Don had married his first wife, Grace Kennedy, when he was 20 and she was 18. Their first daughter, Donna Rose, was born two years later, followed in another three years by Susan Grace. Don built a succession of homes in Pt. Loma for his family, finally building the home he most loved on La Cresta Dr. in 1970 when the beautifully wooded Sefton Estate was subdivided. Through the late 1950's, 1960's and into the 1970's, Don was busy with his business, his family, his legion of friends, the Lion's Club (with 50 years of perfect attendance!), and Sacred Heart Catholic Church. There were softball leagues at Ocean Beach Elementary, beach parties and the exciting opening of the OB Pier; Christmas midnight masses and hay rides to take the kids to see the nativity scenes in Balboa Park.
Then in 1969, the Tuschs joined with some other families to purchase a 500 acre ranch in Lyons Valley, the Rock-N-Ridge Ranch. The ranch years were magical: every weekend from the time school got out on Friday until Sunday night was spent at the ranch. The girls got horses, Grace got a minibike, and Snowball the pony pulled the pony cart. There were golf games on the 9-hole course, moonlight trail rides, deer "hunts" with spotlights and pool parties. There were fishing in the two lakes and some huge parties with pit barbeques. There were movies under the stars and giant slumber parties in the lodge. The men made a brief foray into thoroughbred racehorse breeding, and somewhere there is a winner's circle photo that included the Tuschs!
In the early 1970's, Don's life changed course. His marriage to Grace dissolved, the ranch was sold, the girls lived with Grace and Don was single. Two significant relationships emerged: after a brief period of dating, Don and Betty Derbonne decided that they were really meant to be business partners and formed their property investment and management company, Tusch-Derbonne Company, in 1974. Meanwhile, Don reconnected with an old friend, Doris Alspaugh, who was also divorced and visiting from Idaho. Doris relocated to San Diego and she and Don eventually eloped in June, 1975, returning from their brief honeymoom in Julian to attend Donna's graduation from UCSD.
Don and Doris' 35-year marriage was characterized by fun and adventure. They were charter members of the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, where Doris held Don's "11th anniversary of his 39th birthday" party. Both became avid tennis players and fans, even attending the French Open twice, and Don became a master of "junk shots": balls that barely dribbled over the net and frustrated his opponents. They traveled extensively, with Don's favorite trip being a month-long tour of Africa with Betty and her husband, Jack, that included a trip down the Nile, a visit to Victoria Falls, a Serengeti safari, and a final destination of Cape Hope. Other travels included cruises to Tahiti, around the Mediterranean, and through the Panama Canal. Don fell in love with Hawaii and invested in the Napili Kai resort on Maui, which he and Doris visited annually for 20 years.
Don was a big believer in having great "toys" to share with family and friends. In addition to the ranch, he has owned mountain homes in Cuyamaca and Lake Arrowhead, desert homes in the Palm Springs area, and a ranch in Julian. He was an avid pilot from 1962 until 1977, when medical issues forced him to give up his license and sell his Cherokee 180. He owned several cabin cruisers starting in 1958, including one he named The Bank, so his office staff could tell callers he was away from the office to go to the bank.
Don treasured his family and friends, and suffered some of his lowest times due to losses. His parents died in 1973 and 1977, and his beloved nephew, Greg Hurder, died unexpectedly in 1995. He lost many of his dearest friends, as well as his sister, during the past 20 years. He also had a hard time coping with his daughters' moving away with their spouses, first Donna to Wisconsin in 1982, then Susan to San Jose in 1984.
Don's Christian faith was a steady undercurrent of his life that became ever deeper. He converted to Catholicism prior to his marriage to Grace (her Irish family was very Catholic; his sister-in-law, Liz, was a nun.) With his divorce from Grace, his ties to the Catholic Church gradually weakened, and he became open to other Christian traditions. In recent years he found a happy fit with a small Baptist church in Ocean Beach, and when there was a change in pastors, he became what he loved to refer to as a "double dipper", continuing to attend the Baptist Church while also helping Pastor Terry Miller establish the Oasis Church.
Don clearly led an active life, but had to cope with some medical conditions along the way. In 1978, he developed dangerously high blood pressure with daily debilitating migraines. Crimped blood vessels to the kidneys were diagnosed and new veins transplanted in two surgeries, leaving his "zipper" scars. Although that was a rough time, the transplants corrected the problem, and also, Don stopped smoking! Alas, damage was done to his lungs and he was diagnosed with COPD about 5 years ago. He had to give up tennis and eventually started using oxygen. In August, 2008, he had a crisis that resulted in the diagnosis of congestive heart failure, which was well treated, giving him improved quality of life for the past year. From the time of the CHF diagnosis, Don stated his wish that his life would end with a sudden heart attack so he would not have to endure a prolonged deterioration. In true Don Tusch form, he got his wish. On November 21, 2009, following dinner at a favorite restaurant, Shades, with Doris and his dear friends, Ken and Margaret Harvey, Don and Doris walked to their SUV, where Don suddenly collapsed and never regained consciousness. Considering that his first mother-in-law had warned Grace not to marry Don because he was so skinny that he would probably be dead in a few years, he did pretty well!
Don Tusch is survived by his wife, Doris; his daughter, Donna Rose and her partner, Mark Wall; his daughter Susan Rackley and her husband, Ivy, their sons Evan and Trevor Brown and Chris and Matt Rackley, and their granddaughter, Haylee Rackley. While Don will be missed and mourned, his family also feels joy at his long life, well lived.
Arrangements under the direction of Beardsley-Mitchell Funeral Home, San Diego, CA.