‘He loved this town so much’: Nevada City man remembered for decades of community service
A couple of hundred people are expected to fill the Nevada City Elks Lodge at 11 a.m. today to bid farewell to lifetime Nevada City community champion Don Wasley.
Wasley, who spent more than a half a century with the Nevada City Fire Department, died last week. He was 80.
His son Greg, who followed in his father’s footsteps, working his way up to chief of the Nevada City Fire Department, said never really knew how many lives his father touched until this past week.
“We’ve gotten cards from so many people who knew my father,” said Greg Wasley, who now manages the Grass Valley SPD supermarket. “He was such an important part of Nevada City, and he loved the town so much.”
Don Wasley joined the Nevada City Fire Department in 1957 and served as fire chief in 1963-64. In July 2009, he was honored by the Nevada City Council for his 52 years of continuous service.
He attended Gold Flat School through 6th grade.
“It was an old-fashioned schoolhouse with one room downstairs and one room upstairs,” said Georgine, his wife of 55 years. “It had a slide for children (from the upstairs) to use in case of a fire.”
Don Wasley’s early years were spent on the Wasley Ranch in Gold Flat, and his family moved to Grass Valley when he was in seventh grade, where he attended Hennessy School.
Baseball was one of Wasley’s passions. His family had a home across the street from
Memorial Park, where Don would spend much of his time on the ballfield.
“When the Oakland A’s went to the World Series, I was able to find some tickets,” remembered Georgine. “He took Greg to a couple of World Series games in Oakland.”
As a teen, Don Wasley was a fixture at the Nevada County Fair, where he parked cars before moving up to cashier at Gate 1. He also loved bowling and would earn extra money as a pin-setter at the old Gold Bowl and the Grass Valley Elks Lodge bowling alleys.
He graduated from Grass Valley High School in 1947, was eventually drafted into the United States Army and served in Okinawa.
“He had a beautiful plaque with his battalion and medal accomplishments engraved on it,” recalled Georgine.
Fresh out of the Army, Wasley passed the U.S. Postal Service exam and landed a job with the Nevada City Post Office in 1953. Georgine had just started working at the Bank of America branch down the street, and the bank was on Don’s daily mail route.
They were married in January, 1955.
“Considering the rivalry that existed between Nevada City and Grass Valley, I never thought I’d have a red-and-gold (Grass Valley High School’s colors) letterman sweater in my closet, being a Nevada City native,” said Georgine. “I think some of that rivalry still exists between the two cities.”
The newlyweds purchased a home on the corner of Searls Avenue and Walrath Street in 1958 and never moved again. Son Greg was born two years later.
“It was a great place to grow up,” said Greg Wasley, an only child. “My dad coached my Little League team and then helped me coach my own son’s team when he was old enough to play.
“(Don) was always volunteering… delivering food baskets or working at the (Nevada County) Fairgrounds,” his son said. “He also loved working in the yard. He would decorate our front porch for each season.
“He got sick last Christmas, and the neighbors all said how much they missed the decorations.”
Don Wasley retired from the Postal Service in 1985, but continued to volunteer with the fire department. He also belonged to the Nevada City Elks Lodge, where he served as Exalted Ruler from 1992-93 and earned Elk of the Year in 1997-98.
“Don’s most prized possession was when he was recently awarded his Elk lifetime membership,” wrote Georgine. “That was a goal he always wanted to achieve.”
To contact Editor/Publisher Jeff Ackerman, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4299.
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