Cover photo for Donald Albert Carlson's Obituary

Donald Albert Carlson

June 6, 1924 — September 16, 2023


Donald Albert Carlson

Donald A. Carlson, 99, passed away peacefully at his home in Denver, Colorado on Saturday, September 16, 2023.  Don was born on June 6, 1924, in Erie, Pennsylvania to the late Paul and Lottie Carlson where he grew up with his older brother Homan and younger brother Porter.


Between the ages of 6-8, he posed as a child model for Eugene Iverd who was an American illustrator, painter, and art teacher at Academy High School in Erie.  Iverd was nationally known for the covers he painted for the Saturday Evening Post, McCall’s, Ladies Home Journal and The American Magazine. Other commercial work of Iverd’s included advertisements for Campbell’s Soup, Wrigley’s Gum, Monarch Foods, Winchester Western Company and Iodent Toothpaste.  Several of Don’s portraits were featured as advertisements and as the cover of The American Magazine in April 1932.


He had a love of railroads and airplanes and began to make model airplanes starting at the age of 11. Unbeknownst to him, he would become a pilot at the age of 20.  During his teenage years, he worked as an usher at the local movie theater and sold magazines to several downtown businesses.


Don graduated with high honors from Academy High School in Erie and was awarded a partial scholarship at Pitt University however he chose to attend Penn State College.


Don enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942 and was called to active duty in 1944.  He proudly served his country in WW II as a second lieutenant in the US Army Air Corps (Crew #698 in the 786th Bomb Squadron).  At just 20 years old he flew several types of aircraft during his training (PT-23, PT-19, BT-13, BT-15 and AT-10 military aircraft).  He attended B-24 Transition Training and went overseas to England as a B-24 Pilot.  He spent 2 months in ETO (European Theater of Operations) with a Heavy Bombardment Group.  He did not fly any combat missions; however, he participated in “Trolley” missions and “Operation Home Run” (flying a B-24 back home to the states) after the war ended.  Upon returning to the US, he flew routine missions in B-24’s giving instruction to co-pilots. He was honorably discharged in December 1945. Don continued to keep in touch with his crew members and their spouses, taking time to travel to visit them wherever they lived across the US.


After being discharged he returned to Penn State College and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering in January 1949.  He was a member of Delta Chi Fraternity.  During the college semesters he worked in a sorority kitchen and dining area. He worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad during his college summers in the Erie area. He was then recruited by and worked for them full time in Pittsburgh following his college graduation overseeing the Pittsburgh steel mill tracks. The railroad had told him at the time of his hire that he would get a raise after 6 months.  They didn’t uphold their promise, so he resigned.  It was important to him that people remain true to their word.  This value of commitment and integrity was demonstrated throughout his life and work history.  He then went to work for H.H. Robertson (a major industrial and commercial building products company) in Pittsburgh.  He was transferred to Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Bethlehem, PA, and the family moved to Denver when he accepted the position as Regional Manager in 1963.  In 1973 he started his own business (Don Carlson & Associates) as a successful independent manufacturing material contractor and retired in 1986.


Don met his wife Margaret Anderson (also from Erie, PA) in 1947 on a double date.  She was there on a date with his friend!  They found their way to each other and were married on September 17, 1949. They were married for 61 years when Margaret passed away in 2011.  They had 4 children (Janet, David, Karen and Judy).


Don and Margaret loved to travel.  Their adventures took them out of the United States traveling to Egypt, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland and twice to Israel where they were baptized in the Jordan River in 1975.  Closer to home they traveled by car to most of the 50 states, often visiting friends and family along the way as well as museums and historical sites.  Seldom did he miss stopping at every historical marker on the side of the highway (much to the dismay of his children). He loved history and took a particular interest to visiting remote ghost towns and abandoned forts with his family.  Don loved driving so much that his license plate read, “Loves a Long Drive”!  His love for the railroad continued and he enjoyed any opportunity to take either a short trip or long train trip across the country.  He visited as many train museums and WW II air museums as possible. He was invited to and participated in an Honor Flight to Washington DC as a proud WW II veteran.


Don was a man of faith and was involved in establishing several Presbyterian churches in Pennsylvania and Colorado.  He also served as an elder and deacon in most of those churches.


He had somewhat of a photographic memory.  He could replay exact details of conversations, places he traveled to, museums he visited as if he was watching a motion picture of the experience.  People were always astounded of how he could recall events in his life and share them so vividly.


For the last 18 years, he resided at Harvard Square (retirement & senior living community) in Denver.  He was active on the resident council, serving first on the food committee, then as Chairman of the Board for 2 years. He participated in a variety of activities including bingo, pinochle, watercolor art classes, blackjack, bridge, sports talks, brain games, outings to Colorado Rockies games, the occasional happy hour and he was the resident pro Wii golfer.  He cherished his special friendships with staff and residents and was well respected and dearly loved by many.  Our family especially acknowledges his best friend and last love, Pauline.  Thank you for loving our Dad and being the joy in his life.


Don was an avid Colorado sports fan, including the Broncos, Avalanche and Rockies however his loyalty always remained with the Penn State football team.


He was recently asked what the secret to living a long life was - his response; “always eat a good breakfast”!  In fact, breakfast was his last meal on earth before heading to his heavenly home.


Don is survived by his children; Janet Drummond (Jim), David Carlson (Marie) and Judy Conn (Bill); his grandchildren Aime Breeden (Rob), Anna Long (Scott), Mary Blevins (Duane), Jonathan Carlson, Jared Conn (fiancé Valerie and daughter Sylvi), Betsy Wagner (Brady and daughter Addison) and great grandchildren Kyle Breeden (Hannah), Ryan Breeden (Kendra), Alyssa Breeden, Emily Long, Evan Long, Hannah Long, Ben Long, Bella Blevins, Jack Blevins as well as many dearly loved nieces and nephews along with their families in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and Florida.


He was preceded in death by his wife Margaret; brothers (and sister-in-law’s) Paul Homan Carlson (Mitzi) and Porter Carlson (Harriet); daughter Karen Bishop, son-in-law Bill Bishop, son-in-law Dennis Hoffman and grandson Matthew Hoffman.


Our family would like to extend our sincere thanks and gratitude to the Brighton Hospice Team – your care was exceptional!  We are forever grateful for the tenderness, honesty and emotional support you showed our father and our entire family.


In addition, our family would like to thank the staff and residents at Harvard Square.  For the last 18 years you’ve been Dad’s home.  Home is a place where memories are made, where you are surrounded by the humblest of belongings that make you smile, where you begin each day, and where you rest your head each night, but most importantly your home is where your heart is and where your loved ones come together to celebrate the wins, losses and life’s special milestones. 


Friends and family are invited to Don’s Life Celebration at 2:30 pm on Thursday, October 12, 2023, at the Horan & McConaty Chapel, 11150 E. Dartmouth Ave., Denver, CO 80014. A lite reception will be held at Senor Ric’s Mexican Restaurant, 13200 E. Mississippi, Aurora, CO 80012 immediately following the celebration.


An additional celebration will be held especially for the staff and residents of Harvard Square at 10 am on Friday, October 13, 2023, 10200 E. Harvard Ave., Denver, CO 80231.


Interment with military honors will be private at Fort Logan National Cemetery.


In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Don’s memory to Brighton Hospice, 8055 E. Tufts Ave., Suite 425, Denver, CO 80237.






Past Services

Memorial Service

Thursday, October 12, 2023

2:30 - 4:00 pm (Mountain (no DST) time)

Horan & McConaty Funeral Service and Cremation - Southeast Denver/Aurora

11150 E Dartmouth Ave, Aurora, CO 80014

Get Directions

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Visits: 216

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors