Cover photo for Donald R. Kearns's Obituary
Donald R. Kearns Profile Photo
1930 Donald 2024

Donald R. Kearns

June 27, 1930 — April 11, 2024

Mesa, Arizona

Donald Raymond Kearns was born June 27, 1930, in Missouri Valley, Iowa, and passed into the light of God on April 11, 2024, in Mesa, Arizona, at the age of 93, almost reaching his 94th birthday. 

Donald is survived by his loving wife of 70 years, Ruth Balka Kearns, his two daughters, two granddaughters, and many loving friends. We will miss his twinkling eyes, great sense of humor, and Irish gift of gab. 

Donald was an adventurous soul and welcomed the opportunity to study for a year in France at the University of Grenoble, retaining a lifelong passion for croissants, French mustard, and the music of Edith Piaf. He returned to graduate from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, with a BA in English and French. He was active in his local Portland Westminster Presbyterian, “young adults group,” where on a church trip to the coast, he fell in love with his soon to be lovely wife, Ruth. 

In his professional life, he worked in tandem as a High School Counselor, and an English and French teacher in Portland, Oregon. He obtained a Master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance from the University of Oregon, and served in the Korean War as a Counter Intelligence Agent for the US Army in Japan. 

A pivotal moment for Don and his family was moving to Japan for four years, working for the Department of Defense as a School Psychologist. While in Japan he climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji and visited many ancient temples sharing the beauty of Japan with his family. Hearing the call to expand his learning and education, the family moved to Arizona where he completed his Ph.D. in Educational Technology from ASU. He graduated with a job offer and subsequently went on to work fourteen years for the Arizona Department of Education as the Director of Title I; overseeing and distributing resources for Arizona’s underprivileged elementary students. He was an adjunct instructor in graduate education at NAU, Grand Canyon University, and in several Oregon college programs. His last most impactful career choice, was as the District Director of Research and Program Development with Chandler Unified School District, until his retirement. 

Donald was always a deeply spiritual person; yet somehow he skirted the ministry, choosing to volunteer with three local Arizona congregations: joining University Presbyterian, St. Augustine’s Episcopal, and St. Paul’s Episcopal in Payson. Don was ahead of his time, and with an open heart he advocated for equal rights, and pioneered for acceptance of all races, ethnicities, religions, and gender identities. 

In his retirement years, he volunteered at the Arizona State Library, (Archives, and Public Records). Don and his wife Ruth became very active in the Tempe Genealogical Society, and he enjoyed family history, reading, traveling, and spending time with his family. 

Inevitably, his greatest legacy was always treating others as he wanted to be treated, with unconditional love and respect. He rallied for the underdog. Donald was very creative, brilliant, extroverted, and enjoyed empowering others. He was fluent in French, dabbled in cooking, stained glass making, learning German in his 80’s, teaching others, and being a wonderful husband, father and grandfather. Don enjoyed meeting new people and he would have loved nothing more than to sit down with you and talk for two hours. He believed in you and because of his belief in YOU, you could believe in yourself! 

He is joyous now, and part of the light he brought to the world. 

A memorial service will be held at 2PM on June 15, at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Tempe, Arizona. Come celebrate Donald, and sample lemon meringue pie in his honor (it was his favorite). 

*As a former educator, and expert editor, Don would be thrilled to know that many family members gave this obituary their edited peer reviews and insisted on the proper use of the “Oxford comma.” 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donald R. Kearns, please visit our flower store.


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