Longtime Steamboat Springs resident Don Combs died at his home in Naples, Fla., early Thanksgiving morning, Nov. 22, after a lengthy illness. He was 74.
Born on Dec. 9, 1926, Dr. Willett had to deliver him at his parents’ home on Pine Street after his mother was unable to negotiate through a major winter storm to reach the hospital. His parents, Elmer and Merle Combs, also spent most of their lives in Steamboat and were very prominent in early days here.
Don was a star athlete at Steamboat Springs High School, leading his basketball team to a league title in 1943 and a district crown in 1944. He studied engineering at the University of Denver, which he attended on a basketball scholarship, and he also played football for the Pioneers.
He married his high school sweetheart, Shirley Poulson, in 1945. Due to a bout with cerebral meningitis, he was forced to withdraw from college and returned to Steamboat to work for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.
Shortly thereafter, he began working for the Colorado Highway Department, a job he would hold for 36 years until his retirement in 1983. He served as a project engineer on many highway construction projects in Northwest Colorado and eventually became the chief right-of-way engineer for the western portion of the state. After his retirement, he worked part time as a surveyor for Yampa Valley Electric Association and then for the Federal Emergency and Management Agency, where he became a key employee and traveled extensively surveying damage after emergencies such as tornadoes, floods and hurricanes.
While with the highway department, he turned down many promotions to remain in Routt County and continue his love affair with his hometown, and his favorite activities of fishing, camping, deer hunting and, later, golf. When the local highway department was transferred to Craig, he commuted daily for 18 years rather than moving. Due to advancing emphysema, he and Shirley reluctantly left Steamboat three years ago for Naples, Fla., where he filled his time with golf and water aerobics but returned to Steamboat to visit at every opportunity.
He sang in the Methodist Church choir for 56 years and competed in the national quartet championships while in high school. After moving, despite his lung condition, he led the tenor section in the East Naples Methodist Church choir, albeit with a little less volume and fortissimo. He was active in many community affairs, was elected to the Steamboat Town Board, and after that body’s name change, served again on the City Council. He was a member of the Masons and served as chief of computations at the Howelsen Hill ski jumps for many years. He counted himself a Steamboat native and good community resident were among his proudest accomplishments.
He is survived by his wife; a daughter, Donna Watkins of Golden; a daughter, Linda Flood of Toutle, Wash.; a son, David of Steamboat Springs; seven grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His sister, Phyllis Edwards, preceded him in death. He will be sadly missed by family and friends.
A memorial service will be held at the Methodist Church in Steamboat Springs at 11 a.m. Dec. 17. In lieu of flowers, his family is asking that donations be made in his name to the Hospice of Steamboat Springs, 940 Central Park No. 101, Steamboat Springs, 80487.
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