On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, Donald E. Stevens passed away at the age of 88. Don was the loving husband and devoted father of four children/stepchildren and 7 grandchildren.
Born on January 18, 1932 in Louisville, KY to Albert Clyde and Sue Arthur Stevens, Don grew up playing classical trombone in the Louisville Boys School Band. In 1950 he traveled to Rochester, New York to pursue a Bachelor of Music degree with a major in conducting from the Eastman School of Music. After graduating, Don completed a 2-year tour of duty in the army during the Korean War, securing a highly coveted trombone chair in the touring US Army Band. Upon his honorable discharge, Don earned a Master’s in Business Administration from Northwestern University in 1958.
Recruited out of Northwestern by the “Whiz Kids” at Ford Motor Company in 1958, Don worked for several years for J. Edward Lundy and Arjay Miller in Ford’s Finance department in Dearborn, MI, before moving into sales under Lee Iacocca. During this time, Don met the woman who would become his first wife - Nancy Ruth McLain – while both competing at a sailing regatta. With Nancy, Don had two children: Brenda Ruth Stevens and Thomas Edward Stevens.
But Don’s real passion was music—not cars. In 1962, Don convinced Ford to move his young family to Northern California, bringing him one step closer to the booming music industry. Finally, in 1968, Don migrated to Southern California to accept a position at Capitol Records. Two years later, he joined MCA Records (Universal) as Controller of the music division, ultimately rising to Chief Financial Officer of MCA’s Recreation Division (Universal Studios Tour, Yosemite Park and Curry Co., Mount Vernon). Don embraced extraordinary duties at MCA: relocating his office to Universal’s backlot to be closer to the tour and studio operations; spending two years in Yosemite National Park to oversee a government financial audit; and then moving to Orlando, Florida to secure the land deals for the future Universal Studios Florida theme park.
While working full-time at MCA, Don moonlighted as a student. Despite his heavy workload, he managed to earn his CPA certification and a law degree from Loyola Law School. Though Don continued to work at MCA for several years after completing his J.D., he eventually became what he affectionately termed a “country lawyer.” After “hanging a shingle” in Thousand Oaks, CA, he met his second wife – Wendy Lee Freeland – a bookkeeper who worked in a neighboring office. Through his marriage to Wendy, Don became the stepfather of Brooke Leigh Roberts and Kenneth L. Roberts IV.
Ever curious, learning and intellectually motivated, Don was also an instrument-rated pilot, maintained a real estate broker’s license and sailed large monohull sailboats competitively. Don’s passion for American history and government culminated in a 1988 run for the United States House of Representatives in the 21st Congressional District of California. Though his bid came up short, Don earned a higher percentage of the vote than any prior Democrat in this Republican-majority district.
Don was a gentleman in every respect: polite, considerate, thoughtful, and universally liked and respected by all who knew him. Legal champion for the underdog, Don was a modern-day Atticus Finch. The following quotation provides insight into his pursuit of excellence:
When expressing something verbally you only have one chance—once it is said, it is said. You never have a chance to say it differently; you can only say more. With writing you have an opportunity through revisions to achieve the highest possible level of expression.
Don actively maintained his litigation and estate law practice right up until his passing.
His 40 years as an attorney defined him intellectually, but Don’s family was always closest to his heart. Don was a role model, counselor, mentor, cheerleader, and compassionate caretaker to his wife, children and seven grandchildren: Cameron Thomas Stevens, Kyra Ashleigh Stevens, William Luis Stevens, Benjamin Luis Stevens, Levi Jacob Roberts, Sophia Grace Roberts, and Vaughn Allison Stevens.
Don was the last of his family’s generation, proceeded in death by his youngest brother Michael Stevens, oldest brother David Stevens, and only two weeks prior, his younger sister Alice Sparks.
Of Don’s many accomplishments and accolades, perhaps his most cherished was the Governor of Kentucky’s bestowal of the title “Kentucky Colonel”—the highest honor for any Kentuckian. The great state of Kentucky remained an important part of Don’s identity throughout his life. Don will visit his 'Old Kentucky Home’ one last time when he is laid to rest with his parents and youngest brother Michael in the family plot at Resthaven in Louisville, Kentucky.
...Family in the care of Erin Arteaga, Funeral Director