Donald Kenneth Gartman

Donald Kenneth Gartman

April 13, 1944 - June 07, 2022

Donald Kenneth Gartman

April 13, 1944 - June 07, 2022


On the morning of June 7, 2022, Donald Kenneth Gartman, Ph.D., loving husband and father of two children, passed away quietly at home. He was 78.

Don was born in Cleveland, OH, in the family home, to Juanita Rider-Gartman and Wilbert Gartman on April 13, 1944. As Juanita settled in with her baby boy, the papers that day reported allied bombers over both Germany and the Pacific.

Growing up in Cleveland he had three siblings, brother Ron who was nearly 3 when Don was born, sister Beverly who comes along a couple of years after, and brother Rick the youngest of the four. Don always held family close to his heart and while he hadn’t seen them much recently, he never hesitated to open his favored flip-phone and dial them up for a quick question or shared memory.

Don developed an early curiosity about science and the nature of things. He remained proud for all his days of his triumphs in his school’s Victory Garden, and the Cleveland Public Schools garden tract award ribbons on his office wall today provide evidence of this blossoming interest in his childhood years. That lifelong wonder and bottomless desire to learn would form the basis of his professional life and initiate the personal connections that brought him love, hobbies, and friends across continents.

Don attended Ohio State University and obtained his Bachelor of Arts with a double-major in Zoology and German in 1965. He followed that up with a Master of Science in Zoology in 1969 and obtained his doctorate in Zoology in 1973, studying in Fishery Biology and Limnology.

Don studied in Austria in 1964. His foster family became lifelong friends and it was here he met his first wife, Linda Martinson. Back in the USA, they had their son, Timothy Gartman, on July 2, 1967.

In the graduate-level Population Ecology class at OSU in 1970, Don sat behind the only girl in the class. Loretta and Donald started their love story here. It would take them through the end of their scholastic careers and on to visit lands in Africa, Europe, and across the United States. They married on April 19, 1971, and in December 1974, settled now in Landenberg, PA, their daughter, Annalisa, was born.

Don moved his small family to Delaware and worked for Columbia Gas System Service as an Environmental Coordinator for 22 years. In 1996, Don and Loretta moved to Charleston, WV, where Don worked for Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation as Manager of Construction Services. He retired from Columbia Gas in 2000 and remained in Charleston, with Loretta, until his passing.

Don continued his passion for animals and the natural world and shared it with all he met. Cats were always in residence, wild birds constantly fed, and flowers, trees, and aquatic plants seemed to be forever rooting and growing beyond their borders. He was active for years in Trout Unlimited and taught his daughter and son-in-law how to tie on a fly and cast a dry line into the stream. He doted on his grand-dog and goldfish still swim in the tiny pond in his backyard.

Don held a strong love of humanity and fascination for the human condition. He adored poetry, perhaps humanity’s most expressive form of literature, and would drop poems into the mailbox or inbox of family and friends whenever struck by the need. He volunteered with and was active in the local Unitarian Universalist Association. He communicated his faith in people with stories and jokes; he knew a great many stories and jokes. The jokes were invariable of the “Dad” variety and the stories were generally of personal experiences, unencumbered by any abundance of accuracy that might delay getting to the punchline or memory. Dinner may go cold before a story of inspiration was told.

In 2003, Don’s son, Tim, passed away at only 35 years of age. Tim’s battle with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was years long and hope ranged wildly throughout. The loss had a profound effect on Don’s outlook on life and his own future in this world.

Don is survived by his wife, Loretta; his daughter, Annalisa, and her husband, Stefan; his siblings, Ron, Beverly, and Rick; and his nephews, nieces, grand-nieces, and grand-nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Juanita and Wilbert, and his son, Tim.

A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, July 2, 2022, at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Charleston, WV.

In lieu of flowers, Don would implore you to listen to Jean Sibelius’s “Finlandia” and Iris Dement’s song ‘Let the Mystery Be’. Memorial donations may be made to the American Heart Association at

You may send condolences to the family at

Barlow Bonsall Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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9 responses to Donald Kenneth Gartman

  1. Dearest Don,
    Please know that Dennis and I will never forget you! Dennis has so many fond memories of you while growing up in the old neighborhood,

    1. Rita and Dennis, Thank yoy for your kind living words. Don was so special to all of us. It will take a long time for me and Annalisa and Stefan to process this loss and accept this loss — but some way we will emerge on the bright side that looks pretty dim now..

    2. Hi Loretta
      It is Dr. Rita again, Dennis ‘ wife. We are still feeling the shock that Don is not here with you and the family. He wanted to know when the luncheons were on and he kept asking me to tell him. I would tell him to write directly to the person in charge. But I feel he liked to keep in touch with us as well. Don always said to “WAVE” to him when we go passed the capital on our way to NC.
      It is a shame we never got to stop in to say “HELLO” to him. But please know we will continue
      waving to him when we go through the Capitol area before going on the turnpike.

      Beverly said that the service is on July 2nd in Charleston, will the service be on a video? If so let us know.

      Stay strong and please keep in touch. My email is

      Dr. Rita

  2. Dear Don
    Please know that Dennis and I will miss you so very much! Dennis had many fond memories and experiences with you while growing up in Cleveland Ohio. From the elementary years to high school and playing football together on the James Ford Rhodes football team. We will never forget you and you will remain in our hearts and minds forever! Every time we go past the Charleston Capitol we wave to you and say “HI” as you told us to do. Please know we will continue to do so when we go by Charleston to our place in NC. We will say, “HI” to you as Dennis and I remember all the good and fun times we had together. Our hearts and prayers go out to Loretta, Beverly, and the entire family! We will miss Don! We loved seeing him when he came in for the JFR Luncheons. He was a fun guy with a big heart and a love for all animals and of course, his friends! Blessings Dennis and Dr. Rita Colasent

  3. Don was an extrordinary person. He accomplished much during his lifetime. Don and I attended Rhodes High School in Cleveland and I thought back then what a kind peson he was. He contacted me several months ago re my knowledge of the Lake Erie islands as he was putting a memoir together. I always enjoyed hearing from him because he was so interesting. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family. I will miss him and will not forget him.

    1. Gay, not certain if I ever met you, but I do appreciate your rembrance of my dear husband. Thank you for your kind words. We will all miss him!

  4. Ron Preston says:

    Dear Loretta and family,
    I am very sorry to learn of Don’s passing. I shared OSU graduate study objectives and a similar career path with Don. We kept in contact for many years sharing memories and experiences. I always enjoyed these discussions for his creative and talented contributions. He will be missed by many.

    Love, prayers, and memories.

    Ron and Carol Preston

    1. Thank you Ron, Don talked of you often and I know he enjoyed knowing you and his conversations with you.

  5. I met Don at Nature Wonder Weekend at North Bend State Park. He was a delightful man. He and my husband, John, sometimes did the Sunday farewell service together. After John passed, Don was kind enough to send me some mementos of those weekends. We also continued to email each other.
    Please except my sincere condolences.
    Bonnie Tomikel
    Erie, Pa

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