A hard working, passionate, and family centered man, Donald E. Culbertson, 93, lived his long life firmly centered in his faith and in the good service of others. Don, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and community member, truly embodied his beliefs and in so doing proved a powerful inspiration to many. A man who never shied away from hard work and whose kind spirit inspired many, Don will be forever missed by all who were blessed to share his life journey.
The 1920s were an age of dramatic social and political change. Post-war peace, a booming economy, rising wages for most Americans and falling consumer prices, gave rise to a higher standard of living for most. The world quickly changed with the inventions of wash machines, vacuum cleaners, the band-aid, and the first automobile with a combustion engine. Tremendous confidence, prosperity, and previously unknown comforts marked this roaring decade when a person’s success was largely determined by their ability to identify their desires and then work to make them a reality. In Allen County, around the small community of Spencerville, this vibrant decade grew even brighter for Ralph E. and Adelia A. (Scarlett) Culbertson as they welcomed their third child and oldest son, Donald into their hearts and home.
The Culbertson Family’s lives centered on working together as farmers. Seeking work where they could, the family moved around from farm to farm throughout the Allen County area for much of Donald’s early years. In 1935 the family settled in Union Township of Whitley County. Despite the obvious constraints of the Great Depression and the significant demands of farm life, Don found the time and energy to participate in 4-H and play basketball while attending high school and continuing to work the onion fields. The family explored and celebrated their faith through their membership at First Church of God. Don had started attending there with his family in 1935 and by 1938, he became a member. These early years of labor, love, and faith proved the fertile foundation on which Don built the rest of his life.
It was while attending church that Don was blessed with meeting Mary Maxine Dunn; the two began dating after Don finished his education at Coesse High School. Upon graduating with the Class of 1941, Don entered his proud service in the U.S. Army. While stationed in Occupied Japan, near Sapporo on the island of Hokkaido, with the 77th Signal Corp, Donn worked as a Staff Sergeant and soon helped create a newspaper for the troops called Boots. Donn served as the sports editor assuring that the Pacific troops were up to date on all the sports going on stateside, thus affording much comfort and connection to home while living so very far away.
Upon returning home Don and Maxine married on December 14, 1946, at First Church of God in Columbia City and the happy couple soon welcomed four beautiful children into their family. Early in their marriage, Don supported the family by working in a local factory. Quickly, Don learned that factory work did not suit his spirit. He began helping his father-in-law with interior and exterior decorating/painting. Having found his passion, for the next 40 years Don successfully worked as a self-employed painter. In addition to working as a painter, for 25 years Don also provided for his family by working the family farm on Old Trail Road that he and Maxine purchased in 1953 and where all of their children grew up.
The responsibilities of farm life, including daily cow milking, made it difficult for the family to get away. However, they did manage to spend a week up at Goose Lake in the summers. In 1969 while the family traveled the East Coast, Don experienced a life altering moment. While visiting Washington D.C., Don observed an older couple who were also there vacationing. Watching the couple, Don realized that he wanted to make sure that he and Maxine were able to enjoy life fully and not wait too long for adventure. This moment solidified in his mind; Don planned and worked to make it possible to sell the family farm in 1978, move into Columbia City, purchase an RV, and begin to travel the US and Canada. Together, Don and Maxine spent many years enjoying the freedom to explore much of North America, including memorable trips to Alaska, several cruises, and the islands of Hawaii. Later in life, Don and Maxine grew to prefer to spend their winter months in the beautiful Everglades of Florida.
Without a doubt, the greatest bounty of Don’s life was his family. Don cherished his wife whom he considered his equal and relished in the privilege of being a father to his children and grandfather to his grandchildren. With great care and full partnership with his beloved, Don consciously created a loving home where all were unquestionably welcome.
Don’s sense of family extended to his church community, neighbors, and friends who quickly learned that they could count on Don for just about anything. Even through his retirement, Don was quick to volunteer to help others build, repair, and tend. When First Church of God built their new church, Don volunteered his time to assist in the planning and meeting with the contractors. In 1967 Don, serving as youth director at the church, helped plan and participate in a wildly successful mission trip to Haiti. Because of his efforts, 17 teens had an experience of a lifetime. The trip was so successful that many of the youths’ parents expressed an interest in participating in a future trip. Recognizing the gift he could provide many, Don planned a second trip the following year that included 14 adult chaperones. Over the years Don also took on the responsibilities of Sunday school teacher, superintendent, deacon, and trustee. Without a doubt, the fellowship of First Church of God has been powerfully influenced and inspired by their oldest continuous living member’s long legacy of service.
Not only did Don dedicate his life to serving his church, family, and his country, he also invested his efforts in his local community serving as a Township Trustee of Union Township from 1966-1974. During his tenure with the township, Don was charged with the responsibility for the Coesse school, the same school that he grew up attending. As one of the duties of the trustee at that time, he hired several members of the school staff and helped build part of the current school. It was a particularly special honor for Don to be able to hand two of his children their high school diplomas as he served on the Columbia City Joint High School Board. Even during his later years while wintering in Florida, Don chose to be involved in various activities supporting his fellowship at the Everglades Community Church in Everglades City.
During the rare occasion that Don was not actively serving others, he very much enjoyed spending time in the good company of his bride. Whether fishing, attending basketball or hockey games, or watching sports on TV, life was always sweetest with Maxine at his side.
Clearly, Don’s legacy of faith in action, commitment to family, and endless generosity will long live in the hearts of those who knew him best. Whether enjoying the labors of rolling a fresh coat of paint, singing a favorite hymn, sharing time with family, helping a person in need, casting a jig, or seeing the nation’s natural wonders, Don’s family will find comfort and inspiration in their favorite memories of a man who lived and loved so well.
Donald E. Culbertson, 93, of Columbia City, Indiana, passed away at 11:38 a.m. Tuesday, March 21, 2017, at Peabody Retirement Center, North Manchester.
Carrying his legacy forward are his wife, Maxine Culbertson; daughter, Brenda Taylor, of Camano Island, Washington; sons, Dennis (Cindy) Culbertson, of Marion, Iowa and Randy Culbertson, of Columbia City; seven grandchildren, Gretchen (Ballard) Wood, Tammy (Colby) Burke, Charin (Mike) Hanlon, Noel (Teresa) Culbertson, Nathan (Jessica) Douglas, Rhett Culbertson and Ella Culbertson; nine great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandsons. He was preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Sharon Douglas; sisters, Eva Mae Pettigrew and Lois Walter; brothers, Ralph Culbertson Jr. and infant twin brother, Ronald Culbertson; and son-in-law, Robert Taylor.
Visitation is 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Friday, March 24, 2017, at DeMoney-Grimes, a Life Story Funeral Home, 600 Countryside Drive, Columbia City. Funeral services are 10 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home with Pastor Doug Douglas officiating. Burial will follow at Eel River Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made in his memory to Bear Lake Camp for their disadvantage youth program. Visit www.demoneygrimes.com to send family condolences or sign the guest register book.