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Don C. Force: Entomologist, professor, writer

Don C. Force died at Mt. San Antonio Gardens on December 3, 2015. He had been a Claremont resident since 2000, after living in Pomona since 1965.

He was born on July 5, 1928 in Clear Lake, South Dakota, a small town near the Minnesota border, the fourth child of Hazel (Clement) and Clifford Force. It was the beginning of the Great Depression and his father was able to find only part-time work as a carpenter. The windstorms that came through the area at that time helped the family during his early years by blowing down barns and houses so his father could find employment.

In 1936, the family moved to the small town of Healdsburg, California, where Don lived until he joined the US Army in 1947. He never liked school very much because he stuttered and, being shy to begin with, was profoundly affected by the problem. But he liked Healdsburg, where he could ride his bike around every day when the weather was good. After school let out in the afternoon, he worked for his uncle delivering milk to houses off a truck. It was kind of a hazardous job because, in those days, most milk was contained in glass bottles that would break if you fell while running the milk up to the houses. The delivery boys always ran because it was faster than walking, but many of them got bad cuts. He learned to play the clarinet when he was nine or 10, and the only classes he liked in school were band and orchestra. Unfortunately, his mother died suddenly when he was a senior in high school.

After joining the army, he took basic and band training at Fort Ord, California. He was later stationed permanently with the Letterman General Hospital Concert Band at the Presidio of San Francisco. A few months before he was due to be discharged, he decided to see how far he could walk in one day. His barracks was located near the approach to the Golden Gate Bridge, so he got up one Saturday morning, ate breakfast and started walking across the bridge. Ten hours later he arrived in Petaluma (about 40 miles north of San Francisco), and took a bus the rest of the way to Healdsburg.

Dr. Force met his future wife, Frances Jean Johnson, of Hershey, Nebraska, in 1949 when she was a teenager and visiting her aunt and uncle in Healdsburg. They were connected through his sister Betty, who had married Frances’ uncle Carl Young. Although they didn’t take much notice of each other when they first met, sparks flew three years later when Dr. Force helped Betty and Carl relocate to Nebraska. Don and Frances were married in 1953 at Maria Lutheran Church in Hershey.

Dr. Force used the GI Bill to enroll in Santa Rosa Junior College in January 1950. He didn’t think he would like college but found it was better than he expected, graduating from Fresno State University in 1954. The same year he enrolled in UC Davis, got a master’s degree in entomology and took a position as research entomologist with Stauffer Chemical Company in Mountain View, California, testing chemicals for their insecticidal activity.

Wanting to continue his education, he enrolled in UC Berkeley, attained his PhD in 1963 and took a research position with the US Department of Agriculture in Columbia, Missouri. Unfortunately, the entire family had serious sinus problems in Missouri, so after nine months he found a teaching position in the biological sciences department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona where he later served as chairman for seven years.

Dr. Force found he liked teaching but his real love was research. He and his family camped frequently while doing his field research projects. Over the years he was a member of numerous scientific societies, obtained several grants from the National Science Foundation and the US Forest Service and published 25 papers in various scientific journals or as chapters in books. After retirement, he published a novel, the plot of which included chaparral wildfire, faculty, students and research.

Don was an active member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Claremont, where he enjoyed playing his clarinet on various occasions during services and with the choir. He loved working with members of the church on Saturday mornings, assisting with the maintenance of the church property.

He is preceded in death by his sisters Betty Young and Miriam Solem and brother Robert Force. He is survived by Frances, his wife of 62 years, twin daughters Jean Bradley (Ron) of Sanger and Rachel Arciniega of Pomona, and son Daniel Force (Noel) of Albuquerque, New Mexico, along with four granddaughters, Karen Arciniega Steichen, Shelley Carlson, Skye Bradley and Alexandra Force. 

A celebration of life service will be held at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Thursday, March 31 at 2 p.m. Donations in Don’s honor should be made to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, music department, 1700 N. Towne Ave., Claremont, CA 91711, or to a charitable organization of your choice.