May 25, 1931-December 1, 2022
by Natalie Barrett
Donald Lee Thomson of Waipahu, Hawaii, died December 1, 2022. He was 91.
Born in Modesto, Calif., Don was blind from childhood. Because of this, Don’s life was dedicated to overcoming adversity. Anyone who knew Don understood his passion and commitment for the equal rights, opportunities, and advocation of independence for the blind community. His understanding, knowledge, and experience of addressing advocacy for persons with disabilities was invaluable.
But those people Don surrounded himself with also knew the other side of him. While Don could certainly be loud, opinionated, and give off a gruff, curmudgeonly disposition, it only disguised the big heart underneath. Some will remember Don’s love of music — jazz in particular — and his love of baseball and liberal politics. On a memorial page for Don, a friend, Stephen O’Harrow said, “… He was a true friend, a friend I miss talking to every day. Don Thomson was one helluva guy, and I doubt we’ll see anyone like him again for many a year.”
In his professional life, Don earned a master of arts degree in sociology and a concurrent master of arts degree in American Studies from the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1971. From 1971 until 2007, Don was a professor at Leeward Community College in the Social Sciences Division. After this appointment, Don went on to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where he took the position of professor emeritus.
Among his other accomplishments are being president of Friends of Jazz Hawaii from 1990 through 1998, and serving on the state rehabilitation council. Many of you also know that Don dedicated a good portion of his time to the Hawaii Association of the Blind.
Don Thomson enjoys a slice of pie for dessert at a local restaurant counter. He appears to be laughing. He sports a red, white and blue plaid shirt. Near the restaurant door is a fully decorated Christmas tree. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Barrett.)