Don was born in Hermosa Beach, California; his family returned to Needles shortly after his birth.

He attended “D” Street School and Needles High, where he played football, basketball, and the drums in the Jazz Band. He injured his knee and proceeded to manage the teams; He earned the nickname “Coach.”

Don attended San Jose State, worked for Santa Fe Railroad, and trained on steam engines!

In 1950, Don enlisted in the US Navy, serving aboard the USS Essex in Korea; he returned to SJSU to complete his bachelor’s degree in business. At a SJSU Fraternity/Sorority event, Don met a young lady, Helen, whom he would marry in 1957; they celebrated 66 years of marriage in 2023!

After graduation, they returned to Needles, where Don continued his career with Santa Fe; Helen taught school until their daughter arrived in 1961.

The Needles Municipal opened in 1960, and Don was hooked. He developed a love of the game and adopted the course as his own. He salvaged fan palms from various sites around town, planting them on the course with borrowed Santa Fe & utility trucks/equipment. He framed the greens & defined fairways; his family estimates he planted about 50% of the tree/palm stock on the course.

Don coached Little League baseball for many years, sharing his passion for sports with local youth.

In 1994, Don and Helen retired to Atascadero to begin a new chapter. His love of trees found him active in ANTA and Land Preservation clubs.

He could be found on the local links with new friends, jazz band festivals, concerts & stage productions. He and Helen shared many grand travel adventures/overseas and domestic.

Until the end, Don enjoyed his family, good music, good food, all manner of sporting events, and golf topping the list. He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by family.

Don is survived by his wife, Helen, daughter Deanne Hernandez(Mike) & grandchildren, Donald Hernandez and Julianna Hernandez.

A life Celebration will be held at Atascadero United Methodist Church on Saturday, January 20th, at 11 a.m.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to your favorite charity /scholarship foundation or plant a tree and tend it.

Remember Don with encouraging words to others: He spoke life into countless friends and strangers. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver, is a word spoken at the proper time” Proverbs 25:11

Donald E. Jernigan
Donald E. Jernigan 1931-2023