RIP, ‘familiar friend in The Junction,’ Don Smathers; memorial April 1st

(WSB photo, July 2012)
Sad news about someone we’ll miss seeing around The Junction. Even if you didn’t know his name, you’ve probably seen Don Smathers, shown at center in our photo from 2012, when Southwest Precinct officers helped him with one of the tasks he’s handled over the years – putting up the flags for the 4th of July. We got word today from Susan Melrose at the West Seattle Junction Association that Don has died:

Don Smathers has been a familiar friend in The Junction for many years. This morning he passed away peacefully in his home in the Campbell Building, where he had lived for 25 years. We will have a memorial in Don’s honor, but for now, we can take a moment to remember this kind soul.

We’ll let you know when that is scheduled.

ADDED SUNDAY: 5 pm Wednesday, April 1st, in Junction Plaza Park (42nd/Alaska).

APRIL 1, 12:52 PM UPDATE: Because of weather uncertainty, this will be at Easy Street Records (California/Alaska) instead.

52 Replies to "RIP, 'familiar friend in The Junction,' Don Smathers; memorial April 1st"

  • Jackie W March 23, 2015 (5:40 pm)

    Rest in peace Don.

  • alki resident March 23, 2015 (5:41 pm)

    Although I never met him, I saw him in the junction most of my life. He was around in the late 70’s and saw him up to a month ago at Target. Im sure he was friends with many merchants in the junction. I know he left his mark. RIP.

  • Oliver Little March 23, 2015 (5:50 pm)

    So long, ol’ buddy. 2 thumbs up forever.

  • G March 23, 2015 (5:58 pm)

    Really, really sad to hear this. He was old-school West Seattle, and even if you didn’t know him, you “knew” him. The Junction won’t be the same. My heart is heavy.

  • Tom DiStefano March 23, 2015 (5:58 pm)

    Don was incredibly helpful when Bear and I produced the West Seattle Jazz Festival back in 2002 and 2003. A really nice man, generous with his time, always willing to help, he was truly an unsung hero for the Junction Merchants Association. Rest in peace, Don.

  • becky March 23, 2015 (6:07 pm)

    I have known Don for nearly 30 years. He was a very kind soul, and will be missed very much! R.I.P. Don!

  • Jackie W March 23, 2015 (6:21 pm)

    Very sorry to hear this news. Rest in peace Don

  • Northwest March 23, 2015 (6:49 pm)

    Admirable individual who looked out for The Junction area I recall seeing him over many years at the Campbell building on SW Alaska.

  • miws March 23, 2015 (6:49 pm)

    R.I.P. Don. Thank you for all you did for the Junction over the years….



  • snowball March 23, 2015 (6:54 pm)

    Such sad news. Don was a true member of the community – he spent many hours making the Junction a great place to be for everyone. We had the honor of helping him put flags up / take flags down in the Junction a couple of times. RIP Don – every time we see the flags waving proudly in the Junction, we’ll think of you.

  • Jena March 23, 2015 (7:12 pm)

    Rest in Peace Don.

  • Mike March 23, 2015 (7:48 pm)

    Would be nice to honor him this 4th of July with more flags around. Maybe make a tradition out of it in his honor. Sounds like a great guy who cared for this area.

  • Bob March 23, 2015 (8:07 pm)

    Don was really a kind man and he will be missed. I always enjoyed chatting with him about 80’s metal bands and vinyl collecting. Let the good times roll.

  • Alki resident March 23, 2015 (8:20 pm)

    Is the park across from the old Rocksport named? If not maybe name it after him.

  • Donna DeRousie March 23, 2015 (8:34 pm)

    It’s a sad day. We’ll miss our neighbor greatly. Such a kind and helpful man. He always kept a watchful eye on our store from his vantage on the steps. RIP Don.

    Alki Resident I love that idea.

  • miws March 23, 2015 (8:37 pm)

    Alki resident, my first thought was also renaming Junction Plaza Park after Don, but remembered from several years back, when the idea came up of naming the then new, what we now know as Morgan Junction Park, after another West Seattleite, that the person must be deceased for three years for it to even be considered.


    I revisited the policy, on the Parks website, after reading of Don’s passing, and besides the three year stipulation, the person must have significantly contributed to the Park, or Parks System.


    I don’t know what, if any what the powers that be may consider significant role Don played in lobbying for/establishing the Park, but I wouldn’t be surprised if at the very least he was involved in keeping it clean, and such.


    But, yeah. If it weren’t for all of those stipulations, it just seems obvious, that the Park be named after him. It was literally his back yard.


    I wonder if an existing, or perhaps specially installed, bench could bear a plaque memorializing Don?



  • Mauren Nelson March 23, 2015 (8:49 pm)

    Did not know Don, but always saw him in the Junction doing some kind of work. Seemed like a very special individual. I will miss seeing his kind face. May his perpetual light always shine on us. God Bless

  • Sharonn March 23, 2015 (9:24 pm)

    Don had a kindness and a soul for our community. I will miss his energy for our Alaska Junction. A dear soul I will remember.

  • Jason March 23, 2015 (9:26 pm)

    Oh man that makes me sad. I swear I just saw him last week crossing the street by Cupcake Royale. RIP fella.

  • courtney March 23, 2015 (9:38 pm)

    I knew Don briefly, during the two years I also lived in the Campbell building. He was a very kind, friendly gentleman. Rest in peace.

  • Ttt March 23, 2015 (9:42 pm)

    RIP Don. I didn’t know him personally, but recognized him as a neighbor in the junction and knew of all his help he gave our junction community from seeing him do it (and from reading about it in the blog). I’m glad i saw the wsb story w/that pic from 2012 so i could say hi to him and tell him that we loved the flags being put up. People like Don made our community better.

  • PattC March 23, 2015 (10:01 pm)

    I will miss seeing Don, always felt he was keeping an eye on things.
    The flags Don put up went into the round holes in the side walk, right?
    Maybe remembering him by putting engraved small washer shape plaque with his name etc, that would go around the edges of all those holes.
    If someone on the street asks who is Don Smathers, we can say “Oh, he was the helpful man”.

  • I. Ponder March 23, 2015 (10:04 pm)

    I’d like to know more about him. Was he employed by the Junction businesses?

  • Cait March 23, 2015 (10:55 pm)

    “Junction Don” has been a staple of life here in West Seattle. I’ve only gotten to talk to him on fleeting occasions, mostly passing “hello”s, but I will be so sad not to see him anymore. So glad he’s being recognized here for all his hard work.

    • WSB March 23, 2015 (11:07 pm)

      I’m going to ask Susan a few questions tomorrow in hopes of adding a bit more info. We just saw him around so many times in the seven-plus years we’ve been doing this – whether it was at a Junction event in which we were involved, such as Summer Fest, or when we go down for a weekday morning walkabout to get coffee, see what’s up, see if any posters on business windows are for things we somehow haven’t heard about yet, etc. For all the times we’ve seen him, said hi, stopped to chat … we all take each other for granted too much in this life, I fear. – TR

  • Joel March 24, 2015 (5:28 am)

    I knew Don since the year 2000 when he was a gardener at our house on Brandon and 41st. He worked for Hussein and Innam Kahzahl, owners of Phoenicia on Alki, and our landlords. He was a kind man and will be sorely missed. I last saw him two months ago. Sad. :-(

  • C March 24, 2015 (7:18 am)

    He was the unofficial mayor of WSEA… always around the junction being nice to everyone, picking up random trash, helping out @ the Farmers Market/street fair/harvest fest, Tearing trash off utility poles.

    I 2nd Oliver Little’s Comment… ” Double Thumbs up forever buddy ” !

  • Northwest March 24, 2015 (7:33 am)

    What are you going to do to carry on Don’s work and interest in the junction?

  • gina March 24, 2015 (7:56 am)

    I remember Don at SSCC in the early 1980s, using his G.I
    Bill benefits, along with many other vets. Back when the Seattle Community colleges did not recognize Veterans Day. Interesting conversations!

  • CanDo March 24, 2015 (7:58 am)

    I saw him in the Junction just last week too, while I waited at a stoplight. It will be weird not seeing him around. Rest in peace, Don. Your generous spirit will be remembered in the Junction for years to come.

  • lynda March 24, 2015 (8:17 am)

    Don was a Junction fixture forever. I first remember Don when we were kids while attending Jefferson Elementary School (where Jefferson Square is now). Will definately miss seeing Don taking care of his beloved Junction. RIP Don.

  • T Rex March 24, 2015 (8:25 am)

    I would love to know about his life story, I saw him and said hello all the times I saw him in the junction.

    RIP Don.

  • LAintheJunction March 24, 2015 (8:30 am)

    RIP Mr. West Seattle. He will be missed.

  • ericak March 24, 2015 (9:20 am)

    The Junction is a better place because of Don – his devotion to the neighborhood, neighbors and our community will be so missed. I will do my part to continue your good work . . . your kindness will not be forgotten.

  • Shelley Pasco March 24, 2015 (9:24 am)

    This makes me so sad! Don was a regular ambassador and good neighbor at the Farmers Market, where he was always quick to smile and say hello, and lend a hand.

    I’ll miss him.

  • chas redmond March 24, 2015 (11:37 am)

    Don was incredible and was everywhere. I worked with him for years tabling for Sustainable West Seattle at the Junction Farmers Market. He was helpful even when you didn’t know you needed help. SWS also participated in SummerFest with the GreenLife section and Don was always around early each morning helping clean up the area and making sure everyone had what they needed. I set up for music at Poggie Tavern in the evening on occasion and Don was still around helping folks in the alley. God Rest his Soul. Don was a kinder person and more concerned person than we’ve come to expect in our modern times and that personal caring of Don’s was a signature element of Alaska Junction.

  • Eric Wiseman March 24, 2015 (12:34 pm)

    Oh no!! I lived in the Campbell Building for awhile in the 90’s and he was my across the hallway neighbor. Quiet guy but would always say hello… RIP…

  • Lola March 24, 2015 (3:39 pm)

    He was a fixture in the junction. Always saw him doing something in the junction or helping someone out. Will miss him.

  • Mike Palmquist March 24, 2015 (4:48 pm)

    It was great knowing you Don
    I am really going to miss the HI Mike, and the wave you would give to Karen and I.
    God Bless

  • Keith March 24, 2015 (7:53 pm)

    RIP Don! I always saw him in the junction as well helping out and making it a better place.

  • Joey Hopps March 24, 2015 (8:24 pm)

    Wow. I grew up in West Seattle and have seen Don through the years at the junction helping out one way or another. When I moved to Burien, and would come back to the junction from time to time, Don was the one constant in the jumction.

  • Joe V March 25, 2015 (9:18 pm)

    Thank you Don, a true ambassador for the wseajunction, and thank you for your service in the US Army. I salute you my friend.

  • Glen Boyd March 28, 2015 (5:07 pm)

    Don, who is sometimes known by his alter ego of honorary mayor of West Seattle, was one of those folks you meet in life who can only be categorized as a true character…if you live in West Seattle, you either knew him or at least knew of him. He used to come visit us at the old Penny Lane Records every day back in the 70s and 80s and could always be relied upon to crack me, Willie and Randy up with his rather “original” sense of humor.

    I can’t help but thinking that with Don Smathers passing, yet another piece of old school West Seattle goes with him, only to make way for more of those ugly skyscrapers and condos.

    Don’s presence as a fixture in the Junction will surely be missed, though I suspect his ghost will still walk the streets of California and Alaska for decades to come.

    R.I.P. Don Smathers

  • Kim murrell March 28, 2015 (5:52 pm)

    I knew Don from as far back as 1972…I left the Seattle are in the ’80’s and came back about 4 years ago…One of the first familiar faces I saw was Don’s..He was truly a sweetheart..R.I.P.’re missed already..

    • WSB March 29, 2015 (9:31 am)

      We’ve added this information above, but for anyone just following the comments: The memorial for Don is now set for 5 pm Wednesday, April 1st, at Junction Plaza Park (42nd/Alaska).

  • Richard wright March 29, 2015 (10:31 am)

    RIP Donald from kansas

  • manya praeger- myers March 29, 2015 (9:34 pm)

    Don will surely be missed. How could he not become a ws ghost? He always stoped by the store to chat about everything to comics to vacuum parts. It will be weird not seeing him around ( unless you really do believe in ghosts.)

  • roswell March 30, 2015 (7:59 pm)

    don was a constant fixture @ the dearly departed rubato records- rock on uncle don

  • carolyn March 31, 2015 (1:34 pm)

    Will miss seeing my next door neighbor on the way to and from Alaska House Apts. So many changes, so many memories, Thanks for your smiles Don

  • Milton Jenkins April 1, 2015 (12:19 pm)

    We always said hi to each other. He did not know my name, but he was always friendly. Never hurt a soul. Helped a lot of souls, thought. I’ll see all of you tonight. Don won’t let it rain on his memorial. Go in peace.

    • WSB April 1, 2015 (12:57 pm)

      New location for tonight’s memorial – Easy Street – just to be on the safe side.

  • KIm Murrell April 3, 2015 (4:05 pm)

    I was disappointed to no end that I missed out in sharing the moment with memories of Don @ Don’s memorial on Wednesday. He would have got a kick out of it being April Fool’s Day and all…I hope it went nicely! R.I.P. Old Friend.

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