Longtime Routt County rancher Don Lufkin passed away peacefully from natural causes Dec. 8, 2012, at the Doak Walker Care Center in Steamboat Springs. He was 89.
Don was born May 10, 1923, in Steamboat as the son of Eva Rowell and Herbert C. Lufkin. The Lufkin family originally came to Routt County by stagecoach from Illinois and settled in the Yampa Valley south of Steamboat in 1902. Don attended the one-room Mesa Schoolhouse, which was a short distance from his family ranch, from 1929 to 1937. He bragged that he was class president and valedictorian of his eighth-grade class, of which he was the only student. He graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 1941 as one of 26 students.
Don was proud of his World War II military service. He joined the Navy in 1943 and served as a diesel mechanic on an APA landing craft in the South Pacific and Philippine Islands for 2 1/2 years. His ranching background served him well as he always joked that “boot camp was a lot easier than ranch work” and that his Navy mechanic training was a “waste of time because he already knew everything.”
Following his honorable discharge from the Navy, he returned to the Yampa Valley and, within a year, had taken over the family ranch which he operated as a dairy farm and cattle ranch. In 1948, he married Eleanor (Sally) Brunner and had two daughters, Donna Lufkin Vineyard and Vikki Lufkin Franz along with her two children from a previous marriage, Billy Brunner and Patty Childs. Following Eleanor’s death, Don married Eileen Hiatt in 1978.
In addition to ranching and to supplement his income, Don also became active in real estate in the early 1960s. He was very successful in those endeavors and at one time owned more than 2,000 acres in the Yampa Valley and on Emerald Mountain, including land that now is home to the Haymaker Golf Course and the Eagle Ridge Condominiums.
Following his success in the real estate business, he never forgot the hardships his family experienced in the first 30 years of his life. He always was willing to share his good fortune with others. He said, “This community has been so good to me, I just want to give something back.” Because of his generosity, he was given the Tread of Pioneer Museum’s Leckenby Award in 1999 and was named the individual Philanthropist of the Year by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation in 2000. In addition to other causes, he donated money to help build the Lufkin LIFT-UP Center, the Lufkin Library at the Tread of Pioneers Museum and the Lufkin Atrium in a wing of the Yampa Valley Medical Center. His favorite causes were those benefiting youths, seniors and promoting the health of residents of the Yampa Valley, all of which he funded through the Lufkin Family Endowment Fund of the Yampa Valley Community Foundation. He said he funded his favorite causes through YVCF because “he didn’t want to forget anyone.”
In addition to his philanthropy, Don also gave generously of his time. He served on the board of the Routt Memorial Hospital for more than 15 years, including two as president; served on the board of the Routt County Foundation for Senior Citizens; and the board for the Mesa Schoolhouse as well as the committee to acquire and refurbish the school. He also was a longtime member of Rotary, the Routt County Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Cattlemen Association, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs.
Don is survived by his wife of 34 years, Eileen M. Lufkin; his two daughters, Donna Lufkin Vineyard, of Dayton, Wyo., and Vikki Lufkin Franz, of Steamboat; his four grandchildren, Nicholas John Vineyard, of Dayton, Katy Jo (Jeff) Post, of Salida, Lisa Eleanor Franz, of Denver, and Patrick Jesse (Karey) Franz, of Salida; and five great-grandchildren.
A celebration of Don’s life was held at 11 a.m. Dec. 13, 2012, at the United Methodist Church. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any memorial gifts be given in Don’s name to the Lufkin LIFT –UP Center, care of Yampa Valley Funeral Home, P.O. Box 776090, Steamboat Springs, CO 80477.
Don Lufkin, a true Routt County pioneer, will be remembered for his integrity, generosity, humility and sense of humor. He will be missed.