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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Remembering a Great Trojan,...Don Clausen

Former Trojan Club of San Diego (TCSD) President Don Clausen passed away on Friday morning, May 11th. He was 75 when he died and had lived in San Diego for years. Don had a fine career in law (Asst DA) and moved to San Diego in the 1960's to pursue his law career. He mixed with many USC attorneys in the '60's and realized the power of USC in his industry. Don grew up in the central coast of California and attended UCSB, but he came to embrace USC, 200%! Don is survived by his wife Sally, son Scott, and daughter Carrie. Don lived in Rancho Bernardo, just south of Escondido. He loved family, Trojan football and Golf !

Don was the 11th president of the TCSD and served from 1990- 1992. He also served the TCSD Board for close to 23 years, and ran our golf tournaments and since 1990 as well as the Trojan Club of San Diego Luncheons. Don was a great socializer with Trojan Football Athletic Club (TFAC) too and made many contacts with past players who would later become speakers at our Luncheons.

We have asked some of Don's friends to supply us with testimonials, and we'd like to share them with all Trojan fans.

Herder Mpron writes:

Rest in peace and a big Fight On to Don Clausen, a great Trojan friend.

This morning, I received a note from Don’s good friend and tournament organizer Tony Rubino this morning that a great Trojan supporter, Don Clausen, passed away at 7 am due to complications from an infection. Here is the note.

Our good friend and golfing buddy passed away this morning at about 7am. Don had to be admitted to the hospital, U
SCD Thornton, a few days ago with an infection that was untreatable. He was made comfortable the past two days and passed away this morning with Scott Carrie and Sally. Funeral arrangements are pending at this point. Don will be buried at Ft. Rosencrans. This will be a family service. I had a chance to take him there a few months ago and visit the cemetery. He also has asked me and a few other friends to have a celebration of his life. This will be done at Maderas Golf Club in Poway and I will let you know when that is going to be.

Please know how much your support of Don and his family meant to him over the past two years and how much having the golf tournament meant to him. Sincerely,Tony

Ray Weber, President of the Trojan Club of San Diego, writes:

When you choose to get involved in a new venture and are also picked by a special someone [that has done it all for 3 prior decades] to lead an organization into the future, it is a very special moment in your life, especially when it all turns out bigger and better than you could EVER imagine.

This was the case for me when about 10 years ago. Trojan Club of San Diego 'pillars', Jerry Ringer, who had been the 16th TCSD President, and Don Clausen, who had been the 11th TCSD President, tabbed me to eventually become the 17th TCSD President, in the 34 year history of our proud Club.

It's hardly been about me though. Jerry remains a dear friend and USC has done everything possible, on and off the playing fields by its 19 Athletic teams, to make my job easy. The other party who was the driving force behind me was Don Clausen, a man who like myself, who was a non-USC alum, and who eternally “loved the University of Southern California”.

You get to know people very well when you drive 2 hours north and then 2 hours south from a USC Event. You talk about all kinds of things USC and of course about life, family, sport and passions. It was Don who taught me much about Trojan history, the backdrop of his beginnings with USC and what made our Club tick. How right he was when he endorsed Pete Carroll, and who was I to argue, Don had been going to Trojan games since 1965 [both our first games were vs. UCLA - my first game came exactly 22 years after his] and Don and I came to believe, with emphasis, “that if you were a USC fan and you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound!''

Some of my memories of Don and the things that he stood for and that will last in my mind, were of course his tremendous courage and ultimate ''Fight On” spirit especially when he was wheelchair bound these last few years. He literally looked fondly down at the HERD with approval these last few seasons at the Coliseum from his new seating location...Handicapped, Tunnel 14...Don spearheaded the TMB 's latest 300 uniform's with his ''$300 from 300 Trojans” campaign. He also encouraged me years ago to fight the Friday eve traffic and get to what has easily become one of my favorite Trojan Events, “Salute to Troy.” I always told him, ''boy were you right about that one, Don!''

I could go on and on about Don and his volunteer contributions including those thousands of ''Bring It On'' Buttons that we all sold in the rain in 2001 at the Huddle, up on the PERISTYLE, or my assisting Don in many of his sensational, 15 years of running our successful TCSD Luncheon program down here.

Special appreciation to Don's family, wife Sally and two kids, Ron Fletcher, Dave Bahnsen, Tony Rubino, MP Ronny Hirata, and others that really stuck by Don, in his 2 1/2 year fight with that terrible brain tumor. We've lost another Trojan, but he'll quickly become another legendary Trojan in the Sky, with wonderful company, and at least Don had a ton of fun for these last 43 Booster years, and indeed, earned his USC legacy long, long ago….

Our Club has lost a partner and a friend and I've lost someone who made those drives up the 405 pass by a lot quicker than normal, while I marveled at Don, alike myself, a non alum, and TCSD President, and a passionate USC fan as well, as he entertained me about days of old in Troy. We lost a fine man, and one who knew what he stood for and a man that I'm honored to say, believed strongly in me and who was my mentor. Don has taught me how to be a Trojan and I won't be surprised if over time, I attempt to fill some of the same roles that Don did for the Trojan family.

"Fight On” eternally Don, always and forever, and like I've assured you these last few years, we have things in Troy covered for you big guy!''

DSchmidt wrote:

He was one of those guys that when you met him , you realize not only how special he was, but that USC must also be very special to have [non alum] professionals like Don, so passionate about USC !

Patrick Presley wrote:

Greetings from the Dominican on vacation for a few days. I truly hated to hear this news, very, very sad to hear.

The reason I´m writing from the hotel lobby now after reading this is because I´m sporting my SC shirt and had an entire lobby of people start a conversation over that alone, and always an opportunity to share what makes being a Trojan special. Nobody personified this more than Don based on everything I heard from you all. So in my own small way, its to his memory and tribute I say, GOD BLESS and yes it is ALWAYS great to be a Trojan and he knew that better than anyone I am sure. Fight on,

A Tribute to Don Clausen Written by Dave Bahnsen

Yesterday morning, after a two-year plus battle with a cancerous brain tumor, the Lord took home to Himself Don Clausen. Don was my friend, my client, my travel buddy, and in many ways, my inspiration. He was the essence of everything Trojan, and he died as he lived: "Fighting on". He is survived by his saint of a wife, Sally Clausen, his two children, Carrie and Scott Clausen. More on all that in a moment ...

I first met Don at a USC football practice at the UCI campus in 1999. He was sitting in a lawn chair shaking his head at the ferocity of a Matt Grootegood hit. We began to get to know each other a bit that year, but then really became close friends in 2000 when Don (and Sally), along with Mike and Lindsay Stone, who would become our dear friends as well, were on the same Starlight Express train up the coast to Oregon that I was (we were all part of a Trojan excursion to the Oregon State game). This trip afforded us an entire weekend of hanging out, getting to know each other, and drinking. It was as much fun as a human being should be allowed to have (besides losing to Oregon State for the first time since before Richard Nixon was President, but I digress). From that point forward, Don and Sally became very close friends of mine, and as I was married the next year, us three couples began doing almost all of our USC travel together. I will never forget the week we all spent together in South Beach for the 2002 season Orange Bowl game (Carson's senior year), or the week in Washington D.C. together to start off the 2004 season. These lengthy trips, along with countless weekend excursions and other WITFAWN treks and Bowl games and so forth, produced some of the greatest memories I have thus far in my life, and I mean that as seriously as I could mean anything. That the Lord brought me to Don to enjoy all these things with is a gift I could never take for granted.

Don was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor shortly after the 2004 season came to an end, resulting in a January 2005 thumping of Oklahoma for a second consecutive national championship for the USC Trojans. After months of treatment at Loma Linda, and countless consultations with doctors, etc., the prognosis remained very bleak, and Don was slowly dying with a terminal condition. Nevertheless, Don and Sally joined me in 2005 for the Salute to Troy party on campus to start off the season, and I couldn't believe the spirits Don was in. He made me nervous running around to hug people and see folks (with his cane), but he was still ambulatory, and there is no way anyone off the street would have known this man had cancer. He and I were speaking on the phone quite frequently at this point (he was a client of mine, and we were speaking more and more about his faith), and I was taken aback by his renewed commitment to the Lord and Savior Don had known for decades, but who he had recently determined with a renewed vigor to place his trust in. He went to Hawaii with his family for the start of the 2005 season, and shortly thereafter, things changed. Don began losing his strength and feelings in one side of his body, and in late September was forced into a wheelchair full-time. In October, I drove Don and Sally out to Phoenix for the Arizona State game. This trip produced more adventures and excitement than I care to recall, but again, memories abound, and all positive ones, and Don continued to live his life day-by-day, determined to enjoy the time he had left with his family and with his Trojans.

By late 2005, and throughout 2006, the deterioration in his health and condition was woefully clear to any of us that spent time with him. His loving wife, Sally, left the pre-school she worked at, and his daughter, Carrie, left her job in the Seattle area to come down to San Diego full-time to help. Don continued on, but was 100% restricted to lifts and chairs and other devices that made movement possible. But he fought on. He not only made it through the entire 2005 season, but the entire 2006 season as well. A man that had committed himself in his retirement to abundant levels of golf, and USC travel, was now restricted to life in a wheelchair, where his ambulatory skills were gone, and his motor skills were extremely limited. I never heard him utter a complaint to me. He lived his life making the best of what was so far outside his hopes and dreams, it is unexplainable. He repeated to me every chance he got his appreciation for his wife and family.

Don and I had very specific and detailed conversations in 2000 and 2001 where we said (half-jokingly) that God would not take Don home until USC had won a national championship. You have to understand - at the time we said that, we may as well have said that Don would live to be at least a hundred. In 2000 we came off the worst season in USC history, and in 2001, we went a dismal 6-6, and the prospects for the future were just not in the lingo of "national championship" talk. Perhaps Don and I should have amended our statement after the Orange Bowl and Pac-10 championships of 2002, because sure enough, the Pete Carroll-led Trojans burst into the natty in 2003 and 2004, bringing home the trophy, and insuring that my prediction would indeed come true - God did not take Don home, UNTIL AFTER USC had won a national championship. Grace sometimes just abounds so much, that you get two national championships (and almost a third) ...

I can not put into words, and even as I type I am welling up with tears, what I feel about the model of love and support that Sally Clausen has been to Don (not just in his death, but in his entire life). No tribute to Don is complete without giving her the due respect, love, and support she deserves. Her reward is in heaven, but her acknowledgment should come now as well from those of us who love the Clausen family.

Don was so much more to me than just a client, football buddy, or friend. He was a man who had experienced delightful successes, and distressing setbacks in his life. He was transparent as the day is long, and lived his life on his sleeve in a way few people do. He never attended USC. As he told me countless times, when "those damn hippies" burned down the bank at his alma mater of UCSB in the 1960's, Don converted to a love for Troy. He was a highly successful past President of the San Diego Trojan Club, and he spoke about those experiences and accomplishments for more than he did his lengthy and accomplished law career.

The last two years have been a trial for the Clausen family in ways I am sure they could not even put into words. As we remember Don today, I wish to simply say that the last two years have also been an example to all of us - an example of what it means to live sacrificially, and die heroically.

Fight on, Don. You embody the spirit of Troy.

Heidi Slate Levin wrote:

My deepest sympathies to the family of Don Clausen. When Don received an award at the Pete Carroll dinner, my husband took a photograph of Pete Carroll talking with Don. Don was so overcome with emotion that the picture captured all the joy he felt. I wanted Don to have a memory from this special evening. We developed the picture, made it larger, and before I framed it, I got an autograph to Don from Pete Carroll. I framed it with the autograph and gave the picture to Don during football season at a USC luncheon. He was so sweet the way he thanked me for it. I thought the picture might be inspirational for him. I hope his family will look at that picture and remember the wonderful night that Don had and the wonderful times he had cheering for USC. When I think of Don Clausen, I will remember that evening and all the joy that went along with it.

Former Trojan lineman Ron Fletcher, '54-'56, wrote:

Sally called me today to tell me of Dons passing. She was very appreciative of the support of the Trojan family. His passing could not have come under better circumstances as he was enjoying life to its fullest until the end, ENJOYING his family and Trojan football. So many TROJANS contributed to supporting him during his illness that Sally told me that she truly understood what the Trojan family means. In there time of need it was the Trojans that stepped UP !!!!!!!!

After Signing day Garry P. met Don, I and his caregiver for lunch in San Juan Capistrano and Don was in seventh-heaven hearing about the recruits. On the way home Don told me about his plans for the celebration of his life and asked that I participate and relay the story about the Arkansas game. At this time he told me that he and Tony had planned out this affair. He also said he wanted to go up to spring practice.

We went to the last scrimmage and when I arrived to pick him up he said I COULDNOT SLEEP ALL NIGHT thinking about going. We left at 8:30 and didnot get home until 5.He enjoyed every minute including lunch with Garry and then a trip to the bookstore. When we got home we made plans to go to the John Morton San Diego Trojan Club dinner on the 30th of April. He had a great time and even had a couple glasses of Merlot and we began to make plans to attend the Pete Carroll dinner on June 11th.He was excited because his son Scott, who lives in San Francisco was going to be in Los Angeles on business for 7 weeks beginning in May and could go to the dinner with him.

Scott and his family arrived last weekend and they had a great family weekend and enjoyed a quiet dinner on Monday night. On Tuesday he did not feel right and on Wednesday had a medical event, Sally is not sure what it was but the doctors told her they could not do anything and she chose to let him go.

The funeral will be a family funeral at Fort Rosecrans ,she said that takes a couple of weeks to arrange and then the celebration of life will take place after. She and Scott are planning to go to the Pete Carroll dinner on the 11th as that is what Don would want !!

I did not know Don long but we had a special relationship and I will miss him and his spirit to fight on !!!!!!!! He gave so much and asked so little, rest in peace my friend.

Fight On and God Bless, Don

1 comment:

76bearsfly said...

Don Clausen--A GREAT MAN.
I read the news today about the passing of my good buddy, fellow golfer and attorney, Don Clausen. My name is Steve Roberts and I am the President of Torrey Pines Men's Golf Club where Don was a valued member. He was a player that everyone was delighted to be paired with as his love for the game, good sportsmanship and common decency made for a very enjoyable day on the links. He cared about others and was nothing short of a true joy just to be around. For many years he and I were partners in numerous charity golf events around town. He was the "go to" guy when the chips were down and we needed a twelve foot birdie putt in a scramble--he was always the fourth and final guy to try. More often than not he made the putt to many resounding shouts of joy and high fives!! I can remember him stalking the putts and doing his patented plumb bobbing technique. I also remember him hitting the fairway with killer drives after the first three of us blew the ball out of bounds. He had guts and was real tough. Even though I am a true blue Cal Bear (Conference Champ in swimming in 1976) I would start singing the SC fight songs before an important shot that Don was getting ready to hit which would really get him all pumped up!! During the car pool drives to various events we would listen to sports talk radio and argue about who would win the Cal/USC football game coming up that fall. We always had our $5 bet (I always declined accepting the points which Don graciously would extend) and we would always talk the day after over paying up promptly (almost always I had to pay except for once which I always reminded him of!!) He truly loved USC and would do anything for USC on a moments' notice. What a guy!! I am really mad that when he finally retired from the US Attorneys' Office and was all set to play mucho golf and really get into USC affairs the good Lord decided it was his time to go. I guess that all we can really take of this deal is that you better enjoy, and live to the fullest, each and every moment of every day. Don certainly did and I will really, really miss him. He was a true friend, colleague, mentor, and buddy. We are seldom blessed with crossing paths with people like Don in our lives. I would call him periodically after he was diagonsed and he was always upbeat and more concerned about his family and friends than himself. Here's to Don--a truly good sport and great man; I am proud that we were buddies. This is the one time I will say it and only because of Don: FIGHT ON USC! Steve Roberts