Donald Louis Hymes

December 30, 1934 ~ December 8, 2021 (age 86)


Donald Hymes

Donald Louis Hymes quietly left this world to join his beloved wife, Rita Marina (Karges) Hymes, at the age of nearly 87 on the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The world became brighter on Dec. 30, 1934, with Donald Hymes’ arrival at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C. Don was the first son of Jewish refugee turned decorated Air Force mechanic Samuel Hymes and the nurse who wanted to see the world, Mary Uranium Miller. Don grew up in Maryland, Virginia and Florida. In the years that followed, there was never a room that Don entered that didn’t light up the moment he arrived. He had the gift of genuine conversation, a delightful charm, an easy dimpled smile, an open heart, and honestly he was just plain jolly.

By 17, Don knew that he wanted to see the world. He joined the Air Force and saw the world for two years before serving for two years in Japan where he fished, hunted and worked as an office clerk. Shortly after his return to the U.S. he bought a cheap used car, found an injured squirrel that became his travel companion, and began a road trip to Alaska, arriving in Fairbanks in 1956 while Alaska was still a territory.

Two years at UAF introduced Don to many of the people who would become his lifelong Alaska friends. He then worked various jobs and lived the free-spirited bachelor life until a fortuitous night at the Switzerland restaurant and lounge led him to meet the love of his life, Rita Karges. In the fall of 1966 they married.

Don and Rita welcomed their first daughter Zena in 1968 and 20 months later daughter Charla.

Don joined the Teamster Union, drove for SeaLand, worked the pipeline and surveyed. In the 1980s, he found that his gift of conversation worked best in real estate, wherein he worked for the next couple decades. He started at Remax Realty, then partnered in opening Century 21, moved to ERA Myers Realty, and finally joined Golden North Realty.

There were many moments in Don’s life that were precious to him. These beautiful moments included becoming a grandfather to three amazing boys who would all grow taller than him and whom he loved with all his heart. Without a doubt, he was their absolute greatest fan at their soccer and football games and wrestling matches. He loved dip-net fishing at Chitina best of all (the highlight of summer 2021), being an expert fly-fisherman and reeling in those enormous grayling on the upper Chatanika with Charla, pulling out a loaded fishnet from the Tanana River, numerous hunting and fishing trips, shooting the biggest bull moose of his life on “Don’s Lake,” flying his Taylorcraft which he also rebuilt, blueberry picking every summer, trips to Hawaii with Rita, trips to see relatives back East, visiting dear old friends in Broadmoor Acres and downtown (and heck, all around town!), and watching his elder daughter become “Dr. Zena” this past spring.

Donald led an extremely active social and political life. His hobbies and interests were boundless and ever-growing. In the 50s, Don became an avid skier at Skiland and a member of the Ski Patrol team; because he was more open minded to ideas and theories than most people could ever fathom, he worked closely with the legendary Joe Vogler to establish and develop the Alaskans for Independence Party. Don enjoyed the many family and friends’ dinners and summers at the Tanana Valley State Fair with Mr. Vogler. Don had a flair for the dramatic and loved being on stage with the Fairbanks Drama Association as well as serving on the FDA Board in its early years. Honeybees were a great avocation in his life, as he established up to a dozen hives every year for 40 years. With zest, he eagerly harvested his liquid gold and sold it at the Tanana Valley Farmers’ Market. Gold fever struck Don on and off throughout his life, but the summer mining Ketchum Creek in Central was especially memorable. He never lost his sense of curiosity and interest in doing new things and learning absolutely anything. For instance, during his very last Thanksgiving with the family, he cooked his first turkey ever — a juicy and delicious effort. He joined the Pioneers of Alaska and in 1993 was installed as president of Igloo #4. Of great importance to Don was to give back to his community, which he did through a variety of volunteer activities over the years, including the Fairbanks Community Food Bank where he volunteered until this past summer. Great friends were made through these experiences and groups and many others were bonded over the decades at Tommy’s Elbow Room, the Big I, the Switzerland, and of course the Fouts’ garage. Don was considered a true Alaskan and was an important member of the Fairbanks community.

Donald was preceded in death by the love of his life, wife Rita; his parents, Samuel and Mary Hymes; and his brother, Mark Hymes. Don is survived by his daughter Dr. Zena and daughter Charla Alethea Ann Hymes Rayburn, son-in-law Carl Judson Rayburn, grandsons Prestyn Charles, Henry Samuel and Brooks Hymes, as well as cousins in Philadelphia and Maryland.

A Pioneer memorial service will be held for Don at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22, in the Pioneer Hall at Alaskaland (aka Pioneer Park), with a reception immediately following.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Don’s favorite volunteer site, the Fairbanks Community Food Bank.


To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Donald, please visit our floral store.


Memorial Service
December 22, 2021

2:00 PM
Pioneer Hall, Pioneer Park), Alaskaland

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