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Mary Bullwinkel

Beacon Correspondent

From his youth on a dairy farm in Ferndale to serving 20 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, to receiving two of the nation's top aviation education awards, Don H. Clausen has seen and done a lot during his lifetime.

The public is invited to join Clausen, his family, and friends at a 90th birthday celebration on Saturday at the Town Hall in Ferndale from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Clausen attended and graduated from Ferndale Elementary and Ferndale High schools. He was very active in 4-H in his younger years, serving as president of the Ferndale Club, and receiving high honors based on his involvement. Clausen received the California 4-H Alumni of the Year Award in 1965, and the National 4-H Alumni Award in 1968, both during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives.

His local political career began in 1955 when he was elected to the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. He promptly became known as the “Flying Supervisor,” and also served as the manager of the Crescent City airport (which now bears his name and lead to another of his nicknames, “Mr. Aviation.”)

Aviation was Clausen's passion from an early age and he entered the pre-flight program in 1942, studying first at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, then Weber College in Utah, and graduating from the V-5 Naval Cadet Program at St. Mary's College in 1943. He served two years as a carrier pilot in World War II and returned to Crescent City in 1945.

It was there, at the Hi-Ho ice cream parlor, that Clausen met his future wife.


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He and Jessie “Ollie” Piper were married in 1949 and raised two daughters. His wife passed away in July of last year. The couple had been married for 63 years.

Clausen represented the North Coast in Congress from 1963 to 1983, and then at the request of then-President Ronald Reagan, Clausen served as director of special programs in the Federal Aviation Administration.

His dedication to aviation education and lifelong effort to make a difference in people's lives earned him two of the nation's highest awards -- the Frank G. Brewer Trophy for significant contribution of enduring value to aerospace education in the United States, and the National Congress on Aviation and Space Education Crown Circle for aerospace education leadership.

Today, Clausen resides in Fortuna, and said he is very much looking forward to this weekend's celebration of his 90th birthday.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Former Congressman Don Clausen (far right) and his son-in-law James Baumgartner look through scrapbooks and share historic memories with Beacon correspondent Mary Bullwinkel.