Lehman's hobby was helping
No one could tell what the weather was like when they saw Don Lehman. In scorching heat and freezing temperatures, he always wore his trademark Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt or polo shirt.
Wearing little else against the cold, he shoveled snow in Washington on a visit to his parents' home. While other golfers “looked like the Michelin Man” in Charlotte, N.C., in 40 degree weather, he was in a polo shirt and shorts.
He was little more formal as District 5180 governor of Rotary International - he wore his Rotary blazer with the Bermuda shorts.
Donald Edward Lehman, 81, of Yuba City died Jan. 26.
Born in Blanchard, Wash., he and his family arrived in the Mid-Valley in 1959. They lived in Colusa for many years before moving to Woodland and settling in Yuba City in 1976.
An active man in the community, Don, known as “General Short Pants,” was the unofficial leader at the Yuba-Feather Rivers Sunrise Rotary Club, said friend Larry Fancher of Yuba City.
The two became friends only a few hours after Larry's induction into the club. While taking a walk in his neighborhood, Larry encountered Don in front of his home only a few blocks away and the two began talking about their families, Don's 17-foot boat and fishing. Before Larry knew it, Don had offered the keys to his fishing boat and to his diesel truck.
“The first time I met him, I get the keys to everything but his house,” Larry said with a laugh.
Don had worked as a logger after serving with the U.S. Marines during World War II and marrying his wife, Janet, while attending the University of California, Berkeley.
He later joined the Army Reserve and completed his degree in agriculture at the University of California, Davis.
After working as a professional ranch manager, earning a master's degree in agriculture and teaching, he retired as deputy chief of the Army Reserve at the Pentagon after 40 years of service.
“He was wired to be a brigadier general,” said his daughter, Alice Lehman of Charlotte, N.C. “I always considered my father as an example of the Horatio Alger story” - the son of a logger, he was the first in his family to graduate from college.
But he didn't forget his background. When Hurricane Hugo hit North Carolina in 1989, he packed up his ax and chainsaw and flew to Charlotte to help his daughter and her family.
Nobody in the neighborhood had handyman skills, Alice said, so Don cut down damaged trees, hauled trash away and trained men in the area how to use a chainsaw. Though he had never met his daughter's neighbors before, “He became a spark plug for the neighborhood, pulling everyone together.”
His activities in the Yuba-Sutter area included working with the Boy Scouts, Rotary, his church, Pathways and at Yuba College.
“He just kept on going,” said his wife, Janet.
Because of his work, he received a multitude of awards - the United Way Pedro Award, the Boy Scouts' Silver Beaver Award, the Appeal-Democrat's Spirit of Freedom Award and a Paul Harris Fellowship.
“It wasn't about the awards,” Larry said. “He was proud of them because they acknowledged what he had done, but that wasn't what it was all about.”
Don became a brigadier general in the Army Reserves because it gave him the authority to do more things for those who served him, Larry said.
He became president of Pathways because it would help offer services.
He was Rotary district governor because it was the opportunity to lead and provide for others.
“His favorite thing was doing for other people,” Larry said. “That was his hobby.”