Donald Arthur Thorson

April 8, 1923 - June 8, 2017

Church Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home

A Celebration of Life will be held at Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home on Friday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m.

Donald Arthur Thorson, Rapid City, died June 8, 2017 from complications of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy at 94 years of age.  Born April 8, 1923 in Aberdeen, SD, he was one of four children by Arthur and Minnie (Brummond) Thorson.  He was pre-deceased by his first wife of 57 years, Terry (March), in 2003, and his three sisters, Alice Fortchner, Phyllis Westerfield and Ione Egly. Don is survived by his five childrenCraig (Diane) Thorson, Kris Anderson, Colleen (Todd) Thorson-Schweiger, Kevin (Sharyl) Thorson, and Tom (Rob) Thorson, his second wife, Ann Craine (love keeps giving), and three step-daughters Mahri (Sean) Wright, Kirstie (Ryan) Ruiz, and Laura (David) Van Dale.  Not to mention a scattering of cousins and a smattering of grandkids and great-grandkids.  Well, they’re all pretty great kids.  When war broke out, Don was going to enlist, but the Navy wanted more engineers.  After graduating from SDSM&T in Civil Engineering, a stint in the U.S. Navy, a stint in research for NACA (National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, precursor of NASA), and a graduate degree from Colorado State in Fort Collins, Co., he began a career as a Professor of Civil Engineering at SDSM&T in 1947, retiring in 1985.  His areas of specialty were surface hydrology, surveying, and aerial photogrammetry.   We give you two testimonies to his accomplishments.  One, he provided testimony in favor of the Park Way along Rapid Creek as the favored option in response to the flood in 1972.  Adapting to a flood plain in this way was in its infancy in this country.  And secondly, when monies were sent to each state college campus to encourage faculty retention, a student committee created a formula to divvy up these Professional Incentive Funds (PIF) and Don received the largest on campus.   He and Terry bought their first RV with PIF money.  While still on campus, Don and Terry were long time advisors for the Foreign Student Association, helping them feel welcome and providing a touch of home-away-from-home. They embodied “We’re all just people”.  Following his retirement and his second marriage, Don and Ann traveled the western U.S., especially California and Washington (boating the Snake River), as well as visiting Peru and the Amazon, China and Scotland.   At age 87 Don did his last hike up Black Elk Peak.  He raised a family with a deep appreciation and respect for the outdoors, camping and hiking; as well as chocolate and comfortable shoes.

The family would like to thank the staff at Clarkson Health Care Facility for the kind and loving care they provided for Don, and would request that in lieu of flowers, friends and loved ones make a donation to Clarkson Health Care Facility at 1015 Mountain View, Rapid City, SD 57702.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Behrens-Wilson Funeral Home on Friday, June 23 at 2:00 p.m.

Condolences may be conveyed to the family through the funeral home website.


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