Don Anderson, 81, was every student's friend

Don Anderson was a caring man.

He cared about every aspect of the large, modern Kennewick School District that he led for 20 outstanding years.

He cared just as much about a handful of kids in a remote rural school building that even today is not much more than a one-room anachronism sitting beside the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway.

As the mostly one-day-a-week superintendent of the Star School District in Franklin County, he supplemented the kids' school lunches and other programs out of his own pocket.

His wife, Ruth, even made arrangements while he was hospitalized so that the donations would not be missed.

It's said that through his knowledge of grants, gained as Kennewick's longtime superintendent, he managed to get computers for every student at the little Star school.

Don Anderson, for all his age and wisdom, was an affable man, easy to approach, dignified, yet as full of fun as a puppy.

Through six decades as an educator, he always was in the student's corner. Year after year he came into the Herald to represent the Kennewick School District in its efforts to improve education for its students.

In his later years, he still was active in school work, but a step or two removed from the daily stress.

Two things -- well, three -- would strike a person on first meeting Don: his cheerfulness and welcoming nature, his passion for education and his Lincolnesque stature.

Don Anderson was tall, kind and intellectual.

But where Lincoln loved to argue, Anderson loved to participate. He didn't necessarily try to talk people into thinking his way. He simply expressed a point of view that was -- solid.

It was not so much his style, engaging as it was, that persuaded, but the obvious common sense of what he said.

In school district offices, classrooms and Kennewick First United Methodist Church, where he was a devoted congregant and respected elder who held, at one time or another, most of the lay offices, Anderson brought a special mixture: satisfaction in what he had accomplished in his life and with his devoted wife and their family, and a plain-spoken humility.

Anderson was 81 when he died after a brief illness.

After retiring as the Kennewick school superintendent in 1989, Anderson served on an interim basis in Pasco when its business manager fell ill. He then served three years as superintendent of the Columbia School District in Burbank before becoming superintendent for the Star district.

Earlier in his career, he taught or was a school administrator at Kettle Falls, LaCrosse, Chewelah, Colville and Othello.

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

He served the community in many ways as a member of Kiwanis Club of Kennewick, to which his attorney son, Tim, also belongs.

Anderson was hospitalized after emergency surgery on New Year's Day with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

A public service is scheduled at 1 p.m. Monday at First United Methodist Church, 2 S. Dayton St., Kennewick, to say goodbye to this gentle, accomplished man.