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Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

”It is heartwarming to see everyone here,” said former Congressman Don Clausen with a big smile and a twinkle in his eyes. “I'm seeing people I haven't seen in years,” he added as he enjoyed reminiscing and visiting with many friends and family at his 90th birthday party held April 27, 2013.

Ferndale Mayor Stuart Titus dropped by to say happy birthday to Clausen. “It was a joy to meet him and a great honor to represent the City of Ferndale during that meeting,” Titus said. “I heard many stories about the contributions he made and the many special memories he helped create.”

Another guest was Marilou Renner, who remembered attending multiple ribbon cuttings with then-Congressman Clausen during her reign as Miss Humboldt in 1972.

Donald Holst Clausen was born in Ferndale on April 27, 1923. His childhood was spent working on the dairy farm owned by his parents Henry August and Marie Holst Clausen, and by his grandparents before them. Clausen and his brothers were hard workers on the farm, and active in 4-H, taking turns entering their prize-wining livestock in both the Humboldt County and state fairs. Don Clausen's first elective office was president of the Ferndale 4-H Club. He graduated from Ferndale Elementary and Ferndale High Schools.

Just as Clausen finished high school, he was injured while working on the farm when a spear of alfalfa pierced his ear. The injury resulted in a hearing loss that later that same year forced Don to leave his freshman year at San Jose State University. When the United States entered World War II, he enlisted in the Navy and enrolled in the Naval Aviation V-5 Training Program. Soon after that his mother noticed that his hearing had returned to normal. Clausen credits the air acrobatic portion of his training with his recovery.

Clausen served two years as a carrier pilot, and then returned to Crescent City in Del Norte County where he met and married Jessie “Ollie” Piper in 1949. Being a pilot had changed his life, and he decided to make aviation education a top priority. He started a flight school and air ambulance/charter flight service at the new Del Norte County Airport, as well as an aviation program at the local high school.

While in Congress, Clausen served on the Public Works and Transportation and the Interior and Insular Affairs committees. He is recognized with his name on several public works projects on the North Coast, including the Don Clausen Highway (Redwood National Park Bypass) and the Don Clausen Embarcadero at the Woodley Island Marina.

The 90th birthday celebration was held at Ferndale City Hall, which was decorated with flags and in red, white, and blue, and featured scrapbooks and memorabilia from Clausen's youth, his family, and his many years of public service.

photo caption:

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

A steady flow of friends, family, and public figures visited with former Congressman Don Clausen during his recent 90th birthday party. A beaming smile could be seen spread across his face throughout the day's event.