goodbye great adventurer

don at my 30th birthday party

1.17.11 Today I attended the funeral of an old friend. He was known by many names, but I called him “Disco Don”. No matter what you called him, he was a man who understood that life is a gift. Like a child on Christmas morning he had fun playing with his gift. He explored it. He treated it as an adventure. Occasionally he would take us along for the ride.

I first met Don when he hired me as  delivery driver at his “type house” (Typography Plus). Back in the day, before everyone had a Mac on their desk, graphic designers would order their typesetting from a type house. That was in 1989 and I was 19 years old. (Yikes) It was a great job. I learned how to get around the city streets of Denver. I was able to buy my first new car, a Geo Tracker, while still attending art school. He gave me my start in the graphic design business.

He called my then boyfriend “Ralph” since the day he met him, even though his name is not even close to Ralph. I remember the time he and his wife, Vicki invited us up to their condo in Vail. Don got drunk. Ralph got drunker and made a mess with the midnight snack of popcorn. I think their dog, Aspen, may have helped make the mess too. I would stay at their house, dog-sitting Aspen when they were out-of-town.

It was because of Don and Vicki that Ralph and I were married in Maui. It was after seeing their wedding video of them on the beach at sunset that we said, “Yeah. We’re doing that!” And we did. They hooked us up with a sweet condo on the beach. It’s good to have friends with connections. Vicki gave me all the ins and outs of getting married in Maui. When we returned from the Islands, Don enjoyed hearing the details about our wedding, as if he had been there himself. And he celebrated with us at our reception here in Denver. Without him, we never would have run off to Hawaii to get married. I guess you could say he sent us on an adventure.

There was the surprise 50th birthday party he planned for his friend and business partner, Jerry. He rented an English-style double-decker bus in a snow storm. Everyone met at a park-n-ride, boarded the bus to Jerry’s house, then…surprise! The bus whisked us off to the Grizzly Rose. The gang from Type Plus recorded an out of tune version of “Friends in Low Places” as a gift to Jerry. (Yes, the Griz. has its own recording studio. So cool.) Like I said…he was always on an adventure and a winter snow storm wouldn’t keep this man from a party.

Years ago when he was facing the fact that he was losing his son to illness he knew then that life is a gift. He treated the time he had left with his son as that…a great gift. Life is meant to be enjoyed. We are meant to laugh, in happiness and sadness. And most of all, we are meant to have fun! And that he did.

Even though we hadn’t seen each other in a few years…life got in the way, as it likes to do, I thought of Don often.  I will never forget his laugh and how much he smiled.  I hope that when it is my time I can look back and say that my life was an adventure too.

I know he is off on a new great adventure right now…and I am sure he is looking for a little bit of trouble too.

Don Guntenaar
December 10, 1929 – January 11, 2011

2 thoughts on “goodbye great adventurer

  1. he sounds like he was a very neat person, and Im glad he was part of your life. Seems like you learned a lot from him and he will be missed. We take things for granted sometimes and should cherish the ones we love more. Why does it always take the death of someone for us to realize that?


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