Donald A. Adams, 83 years, of Akron, passed away June 14, 2014, surrounded by his loving family after battling a lengthy illness. To those who knew and loved Don, it was just as likely that he died from a broken heart, having lost his beloved wife of 59 years, Jeanette, whom had gone to Heaven before him, just six short months ago. It was likely far too long a separation for him.
Don was born in Barberton, Ohio where he graduated from Barberton High School. He earned an Art Education degree from Kent State University, which he did with the help of the G.I. Bill, along with a period where he maintained an unfathomably heavy course-load.
Don was a man for whom family was of the highest importance. Over the years he had been a devoted grandson, son and brother, which gave him a solid foundation to become an exemplary husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. His love of family was joyfully passed down through the generations that followed him. It was Don's ultimate goal to make certain that his family had life better than he had experienced growing up. It was not only his hard work that allowed for him to accomplish this. Whether it was loading up the car and driving a Sunday morning paper route, or sitting evenings in a gas station, "just in case," Don went above and beyond to help and protect his children. He was also a frequent spectator at generations of sporting events. His love and devotion could be explained by as simple a gesture as putting water on the stove for Mom's coffee to start her day. He was the best provider, making sure that what was needed was always given, balanced with a lesson in understanding that hard work was necessary in order to have the wants of life.
It would be remiss to omit that Don's love of family was derived from that which was at the absolute apex of importance to him, which was his Catholic Faith and ultimately his love of God. For many decades Don showed his devotion to Jesus by attending Mass daily. After his health declined, he would view television Mass each day and sometimes more often than that. He was an active member of St. Sebastian Parish and served as a Eucharistic Minister, usher, as well as other volunteer capacities over the years. It was his deep faith that was the basis for Don's efforts to give back in support of his community. He was one of the founding members of The Leprechaun Foundation and later, The Aladdin Foundation. For many years he worked at these, insisting on anonymity, because for him it was what was accomplished, not whom would receive credit, which was most important. It wasn't until shortages of funding for charities in general and his in particular, that he relented and utilized his extensive list of personal and professional contacts to boost the charity.
With regard to relationships, there was nobody who had more friends and professional acquaintances. His kids could not go anywhere, nor do anything that he wouldn't find out about "through the grapevine." It was commonplace for it to take Don a half-an-hour or more to leave a restaurant after a meal, because he had to greet everyone he knew. However, his friendly, affable nature was not an affect. Don genuinely cared for people, most especially his friends. Don found great joy in "holding court," whether it was while telling stories to his family, or greeting friends and other admirers. There were many of both.
Behind family, Don had a deep passion regarding his chosen profession; law enforcement. His enthusiasm began at a very early age, when he would ride along with his dad who was an Akron Police Detective. He was very proud of that and even more so to be selected as a candidate to the Academy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Don began his professional working life as a life insurance salesman, at which he labored prior to his appointment to the Bureau. After that, he and his family moved to several cities, while he built a solid body of work as a paradigm investigator. He worked many interesting investigations including art and jewelry robberies, transportation crashes, fugitive hunts, white collar crimes, hostage situations and bank robberies. Don had a real affinity for bank robberies and his "squad" in Buffalo, N.Y. led all F.B.I. offices in convictions, with a 94 percent conviction rate, which had been only 37 percent at the time when he took the helm. He had memorable arrests involving the "Weathermen" anti-war protesters in the 60s, was instrumental in the conviction of a sitting judge, as well as the unraveling of local governmental corruption in the mid-70s. Perhaps his most memorable achievement was related to his investigation which was germane to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That investigation and Don's later, further inquiry were the impetus for him to author From an Office Building, with a High-Powered Rifle. He later traveled the country giving speeches on the subject. He appeared on television and radio, giving interviews to places as far away as Australia. Don believed this to be the crowning achievement, although he had countless other accomplishments in his chosen field. After his retirement from the FBI, he worked in corporate security and investigations, but also served as the Chief of Police in Fairlawn, Ohio. He took particular pride in this position, because he served that community along side of his son, Mark. Don was a life long member of the Akron Crime Clinic, holding many different positions including President. Don represented the second of now four generations of policemen, which also included his son Jeff, a patrolman and later deputy sheriff, as well as his grandson Michael, a Wilmington, N.C. police officer. It is important to recognize, that as his family was the top priority in his life, he loved, was proud and supportive of everyone in his family, irrespective of their chosen educational and professional endeavors. There was only one standard which he exemplified; excellence in all things. His entire family strives to make him proud in that regard.
There was one other area for which Don had taken great pride; his military service during the Korean War. Don was a member of the United States Army, stationed in Japan, when war broke out on the Korean Peninsula. He was mobilized and transported there, where he served for more than a year. Don was extremely pleased that his grandson Michael served in Air Force Security Forces, but even more happy that he had returned safely from being stationed in Iraq. Currently, another grandson, Carmine serves in the United States Air Force. Don was an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and served a period as Post Commander there.
Don served his community yet again, being involved with The All American Soap Box Derby. He began there as baggage handler in his youth. Over the decades he became the liaison to all of the Celebrities who came to Akron to appear at the Derby. The family room wall was covered with autographed photos of Don and the Stars with whom he worked each year. Many family vacations involved trips from other cities just so he could come home to Akron and work the Derby. He rose to be on the Executive Board of Directors and was later elected to the All American Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame.
Don was preceded in death by father, Arthur (Ruth) and mother, Mary (Frank) Witzman and twin brother Ronald. He is survived by son, Jeffrey (Laura); daughter, Dawn; sons, Mark (Terrie), Doug (Michele); grandchildren, Jason (Amanda), Jillian, Benjamin, Valerie, Vincent, Michael (Jamie), Jonathan, Matthew, Melissa, Carmine, Kennedy, Kolby; great-grandchildren, Siena, Leo, Jaden, Gabe, Nathan, Abigail, Amelia; sister-in-law, Mary; nephew, Bruce and Karen Young (James); along with numerous loving relatives and friends.
How does one summarize a life well-lived? Unwavering Faith in God, love of family, friends and people in general, commitment to excellence are but a few descriptive phrases which were exemplified by the actions of Don and will be carried on by his family and anyone else whom his life touched. Finally, what would probably make him smile most was that those who knew him would say that he possessed: Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity, not just as words, but more importantly as a life lived by action.
The family will receive friends Sunday, June 22, 2014 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Hummel Funeral Home, 500 E. Exchange St., Akron. Mass of Christian Burial will be held Monday, 9:30 a.m. at St. Sebastian Catholic Church. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery. Memorials may be made to The Aladdin Foundation of Akron, 111 W. Center St., Akron, OH 44308. Please visit www.hummelcares.com to share condolences or memories.
Published in Akron Beacon Journal from June 17 to June 22, 2014