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Donald Roger Schumacher: 1927–2018

Donald Roger Schumacher passed away at home on Veterans Day, November 11, 2018, at the age of 90.

Don was born the day after Christmas during the height of 1920’s gaiety to Frieda (née Westphal) and Harry Schumacher and was raised in San Francisco. He remained a lifetime resident of the Bay Area, despite stints away for assignments during his career at Bechtel Corporation.

Throughout his life he enjoyed relating tales of his boyhood and youth in Depression-era San Francisco: delivering groceries and newspapers on Russian Hill, driving a forklift on the bayfront docks from age 14, and summer work at Dinkey Creek logging camp in the Sierras. One of his childhood highlights was walking across the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day in 1937 with his father. The stories masked a struggle for his extended family to pool their resources and work together to survive a difficult period. As for many of his generation, these times formed core values of fiscal conservatism and responsibility in Don. They also taught him to value family unity.

Don graduated from Galileo High School in the Marina District in 1945, then served in Greenland as a cryptographer in the U.S. Army after training at Stanford University. After the end of WWII, he returned to the Bay Area and was re-united with Phyllis Ryan, who became his wife in 1949. The two of them had served as ushers in the San Francisco United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) in the spring of 1945 while at Galileo together. Phyllis, two years his junior, used to say that he was quite the man on campus at Galileo, particularly when his 6-foot frame was dressed in his ROTC uniform. Don attended City College of San Francisco and then University of California at Berkeley, where he completed his degree in mechanical engineering.

Don and Phyllis enjoyed many happy years together raising a family in the East Bay, vacationing in the Sierras and on the Sacramento Delta in the family sailboat, and traveling extensively as Don’s career expanded and he was posted away in Louisville, Ky., and London, England. Many of the trips included a nautical and/or historical focus, as these were two of Don’s passions, along with his love for his family.

Don’s love of the sea was initiated by his own father, who worked as an engine repairman on San Francisco’s crab fleet in the 1930s, was nurtured in his youth as a Sea Scout, and matured as he first served as crew and later skippered his own yachts in races on San Francisco Bay for over 50 years. He continued his active racing career until the age of 80. Hulakai, Gold Rush, and Blue Streak may still be sailing on the bay, and his little ski boat Oor-Ain may still be towing water-skiers on the lakes of Kentucky.

There are untold numbers of people whose lives have been touched by Don, as he was an active and caring mentor to his employees at work, to his crew members on the race course, and to many family and friends. Demanding of excellence, he could be intimidating, but those who came to know him well learned that his goals were to provide help and encourage growth. He and Phyllis were generous hosts and often enjoyed sharing their home and boat with colleagues, friends, and family. Interested and engaging with their children’s friends as well, Don and Phyllis’ influence reached across generations and across continents.

Don’s professional career began as a mechanical engineer at the Dow Chemical plant in the Bay Area in 1952. After many years of increasing responsibility and increasingly interesting project work and management positions, Don retired as a vice president at Bechtel Corporation in San Francisco in 1991. He also served on the UC President’s Council on the National Laboratories, the Marin County Bar Alternative Dispute Resolution program for arbitration and mediation assistance, and conducted other consulting activities.

Don was active and served in leadership positions in various professional organizations, including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and held several positions in community organizations including the Francisco Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay, San Francisco Yacht Club, and the Belvedere-Tiburon Landmarks Society. He also authored numerous articles on yacht-racing techniques and bareboat cruising, as well as numerous personal history essays detailing his family’s experiences throughout the 20th century.

Don is survived by his children Don (Sue) Schumacher, Kathy (Jeff) Hahn, and Maureen (Marty) Fossum; grandchildren Julianne (Andy) Randolph, Alicia Hahn, and Erik, Samuel, and Emily Fossum; and great-grandchildren William and Daphne Randolph, as well as those he considered his children and grandchildren: Steve, Carrie, Connor and Ryan Francis. He was preceded in death by his wife Phyllis, daughter Laura Schumacher Francis, and granddaughter Jennifer Hahn Brock, all of whom he loved dearly.

In keeping with Don’s key interests in education, sailing education, and modern world history, the family is requesting that donations in lieu of flowers be made in his name thoughtfully to organizations that support those goals. Immediate family members will be making a donation to Hospice By The Bay (, with gratitude for their assistance in helping Don to remain at home with dignity through the last months of his life.

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