Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Donald R. Irwin, BHS 1946

Donald R. Irwin, BHS 1946

Donald Irwin, 82, led California Office of Emergency Services
Published Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, Sacramento Bee
Donald R. Irwin, a former head of the state Office of Emergency Services, died Feb. 8 of a stroke. He was 82.
Mr. Irwin spent more than a quarter-century at OES helping Californians recover from floods, fires, earthquakes and riots. He started in 1965 in the communications division, where a 24-hour, statewide system sent out air raid alerts during the Cold War era and provided a central hub for agencies responding to disasters.
He climbed the ranks to regional coordinator and chief deputy director before Gov. George Deukmejian appointed him director in 1990. He projected calm during emergencies to help keep employee morale high and fought budget cutters for resources to respond to communities in need of help, former colleagues said.
"No matter how tense the situation was, Don didn't get rattled," retired OES worker Jim Black said. "When people were in trouble and needed somebody to run to, Don was the guy everyone ran to."
A strong electronics background served Mr. Irwin in diverse jobs before he joined OES. He graduated from Don Martin Radio School in Los Angeles as a broadcast engineer and worked for the Kern County communications center and civil defense agency.

In 1955, he switched to radio as an evening program host at KPMC in Bakersfield. He was proud that the station's 50,000-watt signal reached Oregon, Washington state and Canada.
"He had a sweater that a Canadian listener knitted and sent to him," said his son, Michael.
He joined KHIQ in Sacramento in 1960 as radio stations began introducing automation. He worked for two years as an Aerojet testing engineer before losing his job in a layoff and joining OES.

Donald Robert Irwin was born in Los Angeles and reared in Burbank. He was the last of seven children born to Oklahoma farmers who had packed their family into two Model T Fords and moved to California in 1923.
He worked in the ground crew for American Airlines cargo service during high school and served in the Army Air Corps. He was married to the former Betty Louise Hocking, who died in 2009.
Mr. Irwin was active in the community as a past master of the Free and Accepted Masons of California and a member of Union Kit Carson Lodge No. 58 and Bicentennial Daylight Lodge No. 830. He enjoyed spending time with his wife at their Lake Tahoe cabin and traveling on cruises to Alaska and Hawaii.
But he was never unavailable during a disaster. "Even in his retirement years, he always carried a (police and fire) scanner with him," his son said.

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