Remembering Vernon ‘Don’ Adams, 1936-2020

The family of former longtime West Seattle resident Vernon “Don” Adams has announced his passing and is sharing this remembrance:

Vernon ‘Don’ Adams passed away peacefully on June 21, 2020, with his loving wife of almost 65 years, Tricia, and his daughter, Edie, at his bedside. Other family members were not able to visit due to the current pandemic.

Don was born on Valentine’s Day during the Great Depression times of 1936 in rural Wellington, Texas to David Wendell and Anna Dobson Adams. Dave and Anna worked a variety of jobs including farm labor and picking fruit. At the time of Don’s birth, Dave worked as a rural school bus driver. The young couple were assisted by a minister whose name was Vernon and, in gratitude, named little “Don” after the minister. Within a few years, when Don was six-months-old, the migrant family had moved to Auburn, Washington. At four years old, Don was recorded onto the 1940 census.

With his older brother, George, Don grew up in Auburn throughout the 1940s and – 50s. Like many young men of those times, his interests included cars, hunting, horseback clubs, and girls. Don “lettered” as a varsity basketball player and played other sports. He was also an avid outdoorsman all his life. He enjoyed camping, fishing, and hunting with his family, friends, and business partners.

According to Tricia, during his school years, he was really into horses: “I think he had at least three and he belonged to the Saddle Club.” The club went on trail rides and Don and his friends camped with their horses. “I remember Don telling me about camping out by the river, catching fish and cooking them over a campfire, and having sword fights with the big ferns”. Another time Don and his buddies were riding their horses up by Lake Tapps chasing some Indian ponies and Don’s horse ran into a wire and was cut. Don’s father Dave taught Don how to doctor the horse.

Then cars entered the picture. “When I first met Don, he had a little red Oldsmobile convertible with a white top he sold to get a ‘49 Chevrolet that ended up being our first car”. He always felt bad about being lured away from his horses by a car. He drove to school and worked on a water well rig and also in a slaughterhouse outside of Auburn but mostly at his father’s Auburn Texaco service station. Don cherished all the friendships he made and has maintained them from those early school days.

In 1954, Don was introduced to Patricia Wilson by his sister-in-law Hazel Adams (both young women were working for Patricia’s uncle in the main office of his downtown bookstore, which was part of a national chain). Love bloomed and they married July 30th, 1955, in Seattle. Don initially worked at Boeing but did not find that to his liking. Don had always been enamored of planes and was able to start flying lessons while working at Boeing. With a new family, he eventually had to stop the lessons, but later he was able to go back and fly solo.

Over the next few years, the couple followed construction to find work. For a few months in late 1956, they lived in Myrtle Point, Oregon while Don was working as an apprentice carpenter, helping build a school. The young couple lived in Myrtle Point until the construction job finished and they then traveled to Santa Rosa, California. While living in a mobile home park on the Old Redwood Highway, Don took a job at the Cadillac garage in Santa Rosa. Their first son, Michael, was born in Santa Rosa and the young father took his family home from the hospital in a borrowed Cadillac. Eventually, Don got homesick and lonesome for the beautiful green state of Washington and the couple went back to Washington, living in several small towns south of Seattle, before moving to West Seattle in 1963. While his children were small, Don had another job that involved driving a big truck from Seattle to Reno to Sacramento. For a while, he also was a relief milk truck driver for Kent Farm Dairy in Kent, Washington. Don always wanted to be a police officer and in 1960, he began working with the King County Sheriff Department. In 1961, he moved to the Seattle Police Department.

As a Seattle Police Department Sergeant in July 1972, Don was awarded the Seattle Industrial Kiwanis Club Police Officer of the Month for a heroic rescue action he performed during a March 18, 1972 gunfire standoff involving a mentally-ill individual who had been sniping at individuals from his upper story, downtown hotel window. In a Seattle Times article of the day, “Officer Honored for Actions against Sniper,” it was written that: “Police Sgt. Vernon D. Adams, 36, was honored at a luncheon today as Officer of the Month by the Industrial Kiwanis Club. Adams was chosen because of his role in taking command of police operations as a sniper at the Bush Hotel fired on police March 18. Adams was also awarded a department commendation by Chief George P. Tielsch.”

The Chief’s commendation was as follows: “Although you were aware that you were exposing yourself to deadly danger, you risked your life to rescue a fellow officer…” which “resulted in your sustaining a serious and painful gunshot wound. I have no doubt that your direction of this operation, although wounded yourself, and your courageous self-sacrifice minimized the potentially serious injuries and prevented the fatal injuring of the police officers at the scene.”

Thankfully, he recovered from his physical injuries, but trauma nevertheless was in fact sustained (today it would be called post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD). Also, although Don had always wanted to be a police officer, he became disillusioned with what might be called “politics” in the Department (i.e., watch out who you catch doing something wrong and arrest and who they might be connected to). He left the police department in 1975.

That period was initially a period of chaotic personal turmoil, facing the challenge of changing employment while having a family of six to feed. Also, within approximately a year of leaving police work, the family unexpectedly sustained a house fire, requiring him to face multiple challenges including several moves over the next year, while he commissioned a new house in the Schmitz Park area of West Seattle.

Although he initially considered small-town police department Chief positions during this period, he found an exciting change in the direction of real estate. He later felt that he owed a great deal to his mentor, the West Seattle real estate broker Ron Turner. Within short order, he was his office’s top producer and eventually sold multiple millions of dollars in real estate. His wife, Tricia joined him in the real estate practice, and together with another couple, they started their new business “Elliott Bay Realtors,” first operating out of the Admiral District and later building their own real estate office at California and Brandon street in West Seattle. They eventually sold their interest, left, and worked with Prudential Real Estate (the other couple later sold Elliott Bay Realtors to Prudential).

During Don’s later years as a real-estate agent, he resumed his young adult hobby of private pilot aviation and enjoyed several different aircraft. According to Tricia, during a hectic real estate market, Don discovered he could get away from the office and watch the planes and hide at Boeing Field. It was there he saw his first Ercoupe and the rest is history. The guy was rebuilding the one we bought and we had our choice of paint colors so we chose lime and white, just like the can of (a popular) shaving cream.

At one point, he also had his own small 22-foot sailboat which he would sail in Elliott Bay of Seattle. In a time of a busy market, these activities helped preserve his sanity!

After retirement in 2000, Don and Tricia traveled the United States in a fifth-wheel trailer revisiting historic sites of family history. After two years of this nomadic travel (and with some health issues), they settled down at their high-desert retirement home in Sierra Vista, Arizona.

Through the connection of their daughter and son-in-law to the U.S. Army post-Fort Huachuca, Don and Tricia were introduced to Sierra Vista and it was there that they decided where their retirement years together would be spent. In Sierra Vista, Don was involved with the local radio-control-aircraft flying club, where he made many deep friendships.

Don was an engaged parent and grandparent and was constantly amazed by the large and small achievements of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Employment: Carpenter; Long-haul Truck Driver; Milk Man; King County Sheriff Deputy; Seattle Police Department Motorcycle Officer, Patrolman, Sergeant & Detective; Real Estate Agent, Broker and part-owners of Elliott Bay Realtors.

Children: Besides Michael Don Adams, two additional sons, Stanley David Adams and Jerrold Dennis Adams, and a daughter, Edith “Edie” Anne (Adams) Guild became part of their family.

Grandkids and Great Grandkids: Michael David Adams, Zachary Loberg Adams, Lauren Rae Adams, Kyran Park Adams, Bradley Adams, Kiana Jade Adams, Nicolle Rose Guild, Jessica Anne Guild, and Great-grandchildren James A. Segovia and Landon Rose.

The family plans to have a Memorial BBQ in the near future.

In lieu of flowers, please donate “In Memory of Don Adams” to your favorite animal rescue organization.

(WSB publishes West Seattle obituaries by request, free of charge. Please e-mail the text, and a photo if available, to

6 Replies to "Remembering Vernon 'Don' Adams, 1936-2020"

  • Vanessa July 5, 2020 (11:08 pm)

    Thank you to the family for sharing Mr. Adams’ very full and interesting life story.

  • Indrya' July 6, 2020 (7:40 am)

    I remember Don fondly. My sympathy to his family. Tricia and Don were both very kind to me. I was fortunate to know them.

  • Lola July 7, 2020 (12:50 pm)

    So sorry for the loss to the Adam’s family.  Sounds like a wonderful life for a wonderful family.  Hugs to you all. 

  • Roger July 21, 2020 (6:20 pm)

    I just saw this and was saddened to hear of Dons passing but reading about his life made me smile.  I met Don while working in real estate.  He was a very tough competitor but always fair and someone I looked up to when learning the business. Don was always the “tough guy” and Trish was always the exact opposite. It’s a shame that you learn about the life of someone only after they are gone.  I would have loved to sit down with him and talked about all the things he went through and hopefully picked up some wisdom!!  So sorry to hear of his passing and best wishes to Trish and the rest of his family. 

    • Roger July 21, 2020 (8:30 pm)

      Just a clarification on the last post.  My comment pertaining to Trish bring the opposite of Don was intended as a compliment, not a negative statement. 

  • Patricia Adams July 22, 2020 (7:59 pm)

    Thanks to you Roger and Indrya, I appreciate your kind thoughts and hearing from you both.Tricia
    P.S. Roger, No problem I understood completely
    Thanks also for your kind comments Lola and Vanessa

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