Don M. Baldwin

  • Born: June 1, 1927
  • Died: October 21, 2013
  • Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service

2720 Muscatine Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52240
Tel. (319) 338-1132

Tribute & Message From The Family

Everybody has at least one gift, and the family of Don Mervin Baldwin would posit he had many, not the least of which was his zeal for life. He drank up every moment of his given 86 years from the moment of his birth on June 1, 1927 in his family home in Tuscola, Michigan, right through to the night his heart stopped beating on October 21, 2013 at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, Iowa. A natural born reader, he devoured every book that crossed his path during his childhood education in a one-room schoolhouse, books that he claimed fed his hunger to see what the larger world might have in store for the son of a self sufficient dress-maker and an irascible laborer. Perhaps it was those Horatio Hornblower novels he was so fond of that led him at 17 to leave his home with a waiver signed by his mother which allowed him to join the US Navy Medical Corps, a leap that landed him on board the USS Macon just after the close of the second World War. His service as a medic fueled his interest in science, and after the war he graduated from George Washington University with a BS in Zoology. He did graduate studies at the University of Maryland in animal physiology and worked at the Bethesda Naval Medical Center (now Walter Reed) and the National Institutes of Health before turning to work in the private sector. For the remainder of his work life he devoted himself to both research and development and sales for Dow Chemical, a job he loved and believed in deeply.

Don also lived a rich life after hours. When he wasn't reading his way through a new pile of books he was busy ordering the world by building collections, assemblages of many things--arrowheads and radios and stamps and coins and glass--which were followed predictably enough by books themselves, which were in turn supplanted by the crown jewel of all his collections (a labor of love these past 40 years), a vast array of antique bookmarks dating back to the 18th century. He loved radios from an early age, and taught himself how to repair even the oldest and most esoteric models. People from all over the country sent him radios that they couldn't fix, but that he could. He had his son winding coils, building crystal sets, and listening to his National NC46 short wave radio before he was old enough to start kindergarten. When he wasn't wandering the countryside looking for books and bookmarks and radios or roaming the beach with a metal detector, Don was on board one of several boats that stole his heart over the years. He loved to sail and spent many weekend afternoons and holidays either at the docks or on the water, exploring the reaches of both San Francisco Bay and the Chesapeake. There were also the idiosyncratic ventures, the dwarf fruit tree orchard and the miniature golf course as well as others we may never know about for sure. He told us in the days leading up to his death that he believed a person should keep at least a few secrets. We do know that he never met a chocolate malt he didn't love and he continued to devour Mrs. See's chocolate covered ginger by the pound almost to the very end, giving these pleasures up only upon doctor's orders. A digger and a dreamer, Don worked life and let life work on him. He believed in self reflection and sought to correct whatever needed correction within himself, a process that was aided over the years by his pursuit of the Roman Catholic faith.

He is deeply missed by his wife of 65 years, Mary Elizabeth Baldwin, as well as their five children Kathryn Robinson (Mike Robinson) of Winter Park, Florida, Don Francis Baldwin (Marge Baldwin) of Coffee Creek Montana, Mara Lewis (Vivian Opelt) of Dublin Ohio, Tama Baldwin (John Mann) of Iowa City, Iowa, and Jenifer Baldwin (Eric Jeitner) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Sean Michael Robinson (Rachel Erin Robinson) of San Diego California and Justin Robinson of Chicago, Illinois. He was predeceased by his parents, Florence and Howard Baldwin, and his sister Betty Lackie. The family would like to thank the nurses and doctors in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as well as the staff at Mercy Hospital--from the ER to the ICU to the 3rd floor to the Hospice unit--for their tireless devotion to their patients. They also offer profound thanks to Angelika Kieffer, his Hospice nurse, and Dr. Michael Gomendoza, his internist, for their wonderful care. Whereas once Don tended returning war veterans in the hospital, he in turn received the tenderness and expertise of others, and for every kindness and exquisitely calculated medical decision Don was deeply grateful. He would wish everyone who helped him to remember when they are having a bad day that the compassion they showed him made his worst days infinitely more bearable.

Funeral services will be held at 3:00 p.m., Monday, October 28, 2013, at Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service in Iowa City, with burial to follow at Oakland Cemetery. There will be a period of visitation one hour prior to the services at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers memorial donations can be made in his memory to the Mercy Foundation of Iowa City. Online condolences may be sent for his family through the web @

Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service is caring for Don's family and his services.