Superintendent who 'never quit working for kids' dies at 81

Don Anderson's career as an educator was bookended by service in tiny, rural schools.

Anderson's death Wednesday from complications of an abdominal aortic aneurysm ended his lengthy career at age 81.

"He's a guy who started in a two-room schoolhouse and finished in one," said his son, Tim Anderson.

Don Anderson began his career decades ago as a teacher with training in math and physics, and finished as the superintendent of the Star School District in rural Franklin County.

In between, he did a 20-year stint as superintendent of the Kennewick School District during a period of rapid growth.

He worked up until the day before his aneurysm ruptured Jan. 1, his son said.

"He died and is due a paycheck," he said. "He retired, but he never quit. He never quit working for kids."

Don Anderson was born in Spokane and raised on a homestead near the city.

In addition to the Kennewick and Star school districts, he taught at or was an administrator at Kettle Falls, LaCrosse, Chewelah, Colville and Othello.

He led the Kennewick district from 1969 to 1989, and oversaw construction of local schools at a rate of two schools per year to accommodate an influx of new students because of activity at the Hanford site, his son said.

While Anderson was forced to deal with a period of extreme growth, Tim Anderson said that "he was proud of being a curriculum- and teaching-based superintendent. Kids first."

Don Anderson was named Kennewick Man of the Year in 1984, and was voted one of the top educators in the nation by a national education magazine.

After leaving the Kennewick district, he was hired on an interim basis in Pasco School District after its business manager fell ill. He then served three years as superintendent of the Columbia School District in Burbank.

Anderson followed that by becoming superintendent for the tiny Star School District in eastern Franklin County.

Tim Anderson said that as word of his father's death spread Wednesday, the family received an enormous outpouring of love, sympathy and grief from those who knew Don Anderson as students, teachers and friends.

"You learn a little bit about your dad that you didn't know through people he worked with," Tim Anderson said.

A public service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, 2 S. Dayton St., Kennewick.