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Celebrating the Life of Don Staples
October 15, 1963 – February 28, 2017
Saturday, March 11, 2017 • 10:30 a.m. • Bauman Auditorium, George Fox University
Donald Arthur Staples passed away at home on Tuesday, February 28, 2017, after a year-long journey with brain cancer. He was 53. He is surely in heaven sharing his sense of humor with Jesus and asking for any data work God might want done.
Don was born October 15, 1963, to Ron Staples and Carolyn Staples in Newberg, Oregon. Don grew up in Newberg, attending Mabel Rush Elementary School, Renne Jr. High School, Newberg High School, and George Fox College (now University).
In middle school, Don met Miriam Clark while picking strawberries at Jaquith berry field. They never admitted to officially dating until Miriam’s senior year in high school, although most every event or activity found them attending together before that time. Even in the berry field, Don was able to arrange things so his row was quite often right next to Miriam’s. When Miriam was May Day Queen her senior year, she convinced the school to let Don (then a junior) escort her.
During high school and early college, Don worked on two different dairy farms in St. Paul, mostly on the SarBen farm owned by the Rasmussen family. Don graduated from NHS in 1982, valedictorian of his class.
The following fall, Don began attending GFC to pursue a teaching career. He was one of the few college students who did not change his major. He knew from the beginning that he wanted to be a teacher and he wanted to teach math. Don spent at least two summers during college on summer staff at Camp Tilikum. During these summers at Tilikum, Miriam was the program director. Don deeply valued Miriam’s heart for ministry and the opportunities he had to work under her leadership. He admired her greatly.
Don and Miriam were married on March 16, 1985, during his junior year at GFC. They would have celebrated their 32nd anniversary this month. With the exception of three years in Yamhill, they lived all their lives in Newberg, where they raised their four children. Don’s love for his family was evident, and being there for his children was always a high priority.
Don’s career in education included teaching, school administration, and coaching, both in Yamhill and in Newberg. After graduating from GFC in 1986, he substitute taught for a year while Miriam was teaching at Yamhill Grade School in Yamhill, Oregon. The following year he began teaching in the same school as Miriam. She taught kindergarten and he taught middle school math. Don worked at Yamhill for 12 years. While there, he completed his administrative licensing through Western Oregon State University. He completed his Masters in Education at Lewis and Clark in 1996, and served as an administrator in Yamhill before becoming assistant principal and academic intervention teacher in Newberg, at Mabel Rush Elementary School in 1999. Don greatly enjoyed working in the same school district where his children attended school.
In 2002, district budget cuts took Don back to the classroom, teaching math at Chehalem Valley Middle School. His gifts and talents in the areas of data and assessment started a shift from full-time teacher to working at the district office as an assessment coordinator and later director of assessment. It was very important to Don that he maintain a partial teaching assignment as long as he could. He wanted to stay connected to students and their families. He felt these connections helped him better perform the tasks of his administrative assignment. Don was twice honored with a Crystal Apple award by Newberg School District: in 2008 for Outstanding Middle School Teacher and in 2015 for Outstanding Administrator.
Don grew up attending Newberg Friends Church with his family. Youth group at NFC was an important part of Don’s life. Northwest Yearly Meeting annual sessions were a part of most every summer in Don’s life from an early age. In grade school those Yearly Meeting weeks were spent participating in Tilikum Day Camp, and then junior and senior high activities. Don was involved in yearly meeting leadership. He helped Miriam and a small group of high school students plan Junior High Jamboree retreat for junior high students, and then directed it himself during his senior year in high school. That was their first ministry together.
Don was involved to the hilt in leadership in the YM and Newberg Friends. His deep faith led him to significant involvement with the local church and the denomination. Don also loved being involved with Christian camping. He counseled at numerous youth camps, led recreation, taught a class together with Miriam at Family Camp, and then finally began directing Boys Camp at Twin Rocks, one of his favorite ministries. He was director of Boys Camp for 20 years (1997-2016) and served on the camp’s board of directors those years as well. He served as vice chair of the board and chair of the board’s Development Committee for the last five years. Eventually he served as assistant presiding clerk of the yearly meeting and presiding clerk of the Newberg Friends meeting.
Math, Sports, Music
Don was a natural mathematician. Before he could drive, he sat in the back seat of the car, checking the time between mileposts. He would then tell his dad how fast he was driving. From this information he was able to calculate accurate ETAs on a regular basis. He could see the world through numbers and statistics in so many interesting ways. Everything could be figured out or seen in numbers. He knew the percentages and stats. He had 33 digits of pi memorized.
Don kept up with his children, the children of his friends, his nieces and nephews, and many others by paying close attention to the great variety of activities and interests important to them. If it was sports, then checking their stats and talking about them was his way of connecting. He paid attention to whatever those close to him were involved in so that the next time he saw them he could ask specific questions and have conversations on a great variety of topics. These conversations were very important to Don because he wanted young people to know how much they were valued and, specifically, how much he valued them.
During high school, Don played basketball for one year and football and tennis for four years. During a year on consortium to Wheaton College, Don played football for one season (George Fox hadn’t formed a team yet).
His love of sports stayed constant and found a satisfying outlet in his volunteer work announcing games for the GFU women’s basketball team. He started announcing in the 1999-2000 season. According to Athletic Director Craig Taylor, who worked with Don for nearly two decades, this work was another way Don found to invest in the lives of young people he would not ordinarily run into. Teams over the years found that Don cared for them as human beings and was interested in their lives. He cared for how opponents felt, and he did what he could to respect them as well. Don was an encourager, and coaches loved him. He loved the work so much that he continued it while undergoing cancer treatment. His attitude of service came through clearly. In 2012, he was honored as Volunteer of the Year at GFU. He called his last game on Thursday, February 23, 2017, just days before his death.
Don’s music career included piano, begun at a young age, and trombone in middle school and high school. As an adult he played less music himself, but greatly enjoyed the music his wife and children made.
Don was a true people person who continually worked at connecting with and encouraging young people especially. He will be deeply missed.
Don is survived by his wife of nearly 32 years, Miriam Staples; children Sarah Kelley (Mark), Nolan, Matthew, and Roy; two grandchildren, Octavia and Sam Staples-Kelley; his mother Carolyn Staples; his father Ron Staples (Claudine)—all of Newberg; his sister, Karen Lane, of Seattle, Washington; and numerous cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.
Gifts in Don’s memory may be given to Twin Rocks Friends Camp, P.O. Box 6, Rockaway Beach, OR 97136.