Donald “Don” Bothwell passed on June 9, 2023, in Mesa, Arizona, a week from his upcoming 95th birthday. He passed with the love and comfort of family by his side. He is survived by his wife Betty, 4 sons (Tom, Steve, Jon, and Joe), 8 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.
He would be the first to say that his 73-year marriage to the love of his life, Betty Whittemore, was his greatest accomplishment. She lovingly supported Don’s career and was the glue that held the family together.
Don was born June 17, 1928 in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. He was the 2nd of 4 children, and is survived by his sisters Pat and Ilo. He graduated from Eaton Rapids High School where he served as Student Body President and President of the band. As a result, he was selected to represent his school at the prestigious Interlochen Music/Arts camp and the American Legion’s Boys State summer camp for future leaders.
Upon graduation he enlisted in the United States Army and served in Japan under General Douglas MacArthur in Army Band #1 as a percussionist. Returning stateside, he used his GI Bill benefit to attend Western Michigan College and earn a degree in music education in 1951. Later he would go on to earn a Master’s Degree in Music from Arizona State University.
His first teaching job was as the music director for Muskegon Junior High School in Michigan. Desiring the opportunity to play more professionally, he moved his young family west and ended up in Phoenix, Arizona in 1956. He worked at Lederman’s Music Company in downtown Phoenix in the late 1950’s working with school band programs. During this time, he played professionally with the Phoenix Symphony, Off Broadway shows that came to town, as well as celebrities that were on tour. Eventually he decided to get back to his true love… teaching. He began as the Director of bands for the Alhambra School District, then the Director of bands at Carl Hayden High School before eventually becoming the Director of Bands at Mesa Community College in 1969. One of the first things he did was hire Grant Wolf to join the music faculty. They became close friends and mentors to thousands of music students, as well as earning the reputation for having one of the top Junior College music programs in the nation.
He was very proud of his students who became leaders in the music industry and prominent educators in the music community. One student said that the most important lesson that he taught was “Play as if you’ll never get another chance”. Another said, “Your guidance still influences me today even after all this time.” A third student said, “I can’t thank you enough for bringing such understanding and enlightenment to my endeavors as a musician.”
A celebration of Life will be held at Gilbert Memorial Park Cemetery on Saturday November 11, 2023 beginning at 2:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to “Percussive Arts Society” (pas.org)