Don Hastings, lifelong Amherst resident, highly respected owner of one of the town’s leading retail stores, outdoorsman, competitive gamesman and member of the Class of 1940, died on September 21 at the age of eighty-eight.
Don was a man of many interests and accomplishments but, as a true Yankee, was also a man of few words, and not many of his classmates were aware of the depth and breadth of his life and the way in which it touched so many people. We did know that when it came to reunion time, he and Phyllis, his wife of fifty-five years, were always available ahead of time to help with the preliminary arrangements. We also knew that in 1953 he took ownership from his father of A.J. Hastings, the store where, as students we bought our school supplies and newspapers, and that he ran this successful business until the 1980’s.
In his home town and among family and friends, however, Don was a leading citizen, a skier and hiker of skill and a tireless and wily player of cards, checkers, pool and other family and neighborhood games. As a civic leader he served as an Amherst Town Meeting member for many years and was a Rotarian. As an outdoorsman he skied and hiked with his family, leading them to the summit of Mount Washington when his youngest daughter was only five-years-old. And at many games he was highly competitive and skilled no matter who were his opponents. At Don’s memorial service one of his grandsons said, “He wouldn’t let us win. He had a competitive edge.” Don was also a musician who, as a teenager, played the organ at the Unitarian Church.
Born on August 17, 1917, Don graduated from Amherst High School in 1935 and came to the College from Governor Dummer Academy, from which he graduated in 1936. At Amherst he was on the wrestling team, majored in Economics and was a member of Theta Xi fraternity. During World War II Don served as a sergeant in the Army Climatic Research Lab, testing clothes and equipment for cold weather countries.
After taking over A. J. Hastings from his father, he earned a reputation as a good employer who loved his work. He routinely started his day at five a.m. and closed the store at nine p.m. and was a kind and thoughtful employer. “He was the Yankee spirit of downtown that lasted as long as his career lasted,” said his fellow Rotarian and former publisher of the Amherst Record, Michael de Sherbinin. He was also a meticulous neighbor who “would shovel at the first sign of a snowflake, he raked the leaves, he picked up all the clippings after he mowed.”
Don met Phyllis at a square dance in 1950 and they had what their daughter Cynthia Hastings says was a “fifty-five-year honeymoon.” He was predeceased by a son David but is survived, in addition to Phyllis and Cynthia, by daughters Susan Peats and Betsy and their husbands; his daughter-in-law, Mary Broll; ten grandchildren; two brothers, Robert and Philip; and a sister-in-law Mary Starbuck Hastings. He is further survived by nieces, nephews and many friends and neighbors.
Amherst College is noted for its high number of successful alumni. Don’s name belongs right up there near the top.
—Frederick Byrne ’40