Remembering Donald A. Gwilym, 1935-2020

Family and friends are remembering Donald A. Gwilym, and sharing this with the community:

Donald (Don) Andrew Gwilym passed away peacefully on September 16, 2020 at his daughter’s home in West Seattle, surrounded by family, after a few months’ battle with brain cancer.

Don was born on June 1, 1935, at Seattle General Hospital, to Herald and Aina Gwilym. Don graduated from West Seattle High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Washington. He served two years in the Public Health Service in Washington, D.C. After a cross-country return trip in a VW bug, Don joined his father and brother at Seattle City Light, where he spent 41 years working on hydroelectric projects on the Skagit and Pend Oreille Rivers, including dam safety.

On September 23, 1961, he married Karen Oberg, and raised three daughters. In 1991, Don and Karen moved to Vashon Island, where they spent 25 wonderful years living in the woods, ferry commuting, and hosting magical “grandparent camps” and family reunions. In 2016, they moved to Horizon House in Seattle.

Don was a gentle, giving, compassionate man with a strong passion for justice and helping others. He was a lifelong member of the United Church of Christ denomination, including 52 years at Plymouth Church in Seattle. He worked to eliminate housing discrimination, desegregate public schools, provide companionship to many who were unhoused or experiencing mental illness, and deliver food to those who were isolated. Up until his illness, Don escorted supported-living residents to events, and coordinated the Horizon House van trips to church. He honored every single individual he met and advocated for those in need.

Don loved dogs, playing with his grandkids, greeting neighbors, learning history, dancing, singing, eating cinnamon rolls, watching Storm/Seahawks/M’s games, traveling to Sweden and China, and cracking really corny jokes.

Don was preceded in death by his newborn son Thomas and his brother Edward Gwilym. He is survived by his wife Karen, daughters Gwen (Fred Williams); Janet (Bing Tso, Jr.); and Kathy, and his brother Herald Gwilym (Kathleen). He is also survived by his five grandchildren—Rheanna (Seth), Tyee, Alana, Morgan, Annika — and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of Don’s life will be held at a later date due to COVID. Consider donations in his memory to Plymouth Healing Communities ( or Kids in Need of Defense (, wear your mask for others, and pet a dog.

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

5 Replies to "Remembering Donald A. Gwilym, 1935-2020"

  • JJ September 23, 2020 (9:06 am)

    What a deeply kind, inspirational man. I am so sorry for your loss. 

  • Vanessa September 23, 2020 (11:41 am)

    May he rest in peace. Blessings to all and may you all find peace as well with the loss of such a wonderful human being.

  • Vern Murray September 23, 2020 (6:33 pm)

    Gwen and I are “berries” from some bushes after church one Sunday. I still remember throwing up into their bathroom after being given ipecak. I live just a few blocks from their old house at 55th & Dakota, so am constantly reinforcing that memory every time I pass it. 

    • Gwen September 24, 2020 (9:18 am)

      I remember that traumatic experience too!!  Turns out they weren’t poisonous! 

      • WS4life September 24, 2020 (9:43 am)

        I love reading fun memories that are written about neighbors who have passed.  We should share more of these.  My condolences for your loss Gwen.  He sounds like a real inspiring human.

Sorry, comment time is over.