Donald L. Jurries
1938 ~ 2023
Captain Donald L. Jurries, age 85, died on December 17, 2023 from a traumatic brain injury after a fall. Don was born in Northfield, Minnesota to parents Grace and Lewis Jurries. He was the fourth of five children and the only son. Don’s father was a farmer. They owned a farm in Castle Rock, MN, growing onions and potatoes. His father and mother were repeatedly fined and threatened jail time for feeding the German POWs who labored on the farm during WWII. The POWs were interned at Shakopee, MN.
Don attended Northfield High School where he was a good student and an excellent football player. His budding interest in flying was encouraged by taking flying lessons at Stanton Airfield, east of Northfield. Stanton Field established a legacy for excellence prior to WWII through their government funded CPT (Civilian Pilot Training) program. College students from St. Olaf College and Carleton College were the mainstay of the program. Don inherited that legacy all while also assisting his parents by carrying out farm chores at home.
Don enrolled at St. Olaf College after high school and earned a BA degree in Math and Physics. He was on schedule to graduate with the class of 1960 but had to take a year's absence to run the family farm after his father died suddenly in 1958. Don graduated with the class of 1961. While in college Don played on the St. Olaf football team. His daughter Amy reports that, “if he won any scholastic awards, it would have been for most pranks pulled, such as ordering pizza for the entire dorm, or placing a greased pig in the college library and lowering a cow into a construction pit on campus.” When Amy enrolled at St. Olaf she was known simply as “Don’s kid” - that’s how infamous he was.”
In the summers of his college years, in addition to farm work, Don worked as a canoe and fishing guide on Lake Saganaga north of Grand Marais, MN. He and future NWA pilot Wayne Anderson guided Midwest wanna-be fishermen and college girls for the legendary trapper Irv Benson and the Chik-wauk trading post.
After Don graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN he moved north to St. Paul where he earned a teaching certificate at the University of Minnesota. With teaching credentials in hand, Don headed west to California in pursuit of warmth and sunshine. Initially he had set out to pursue a Ph.D. in physics, but the realities of finance commanded his attention’ the Ph.D. was forever put on hold. Don went to work teaching high school math and physics in Bakersfield, CA. He also served this high school as the assistant varsity football coach. Incidentally, Bakersfield is where he met his future wife, Susan.
This will surprise many: Don tried out for the San Francisco 49ers pro-football team and made their feeder team. This short-lived career dream succumbed to his desire to become a pilot! According to his daughter Amy, "At least that was his story..."
Don married Susan Kay (Ward) on Oct 26, 1963. They eventually had three children - Donald L. Jurries II, Lorna S. Jurries, and Amy E. Jurries.
The aviation bug had truly smitten Don. He and Susan moved back to Minnesota where he continued his flight training and FAA ratings acquisition, permitting him to be hired by Northwest Airlines on August 29, 1966. Don was initially trained as a Boeing 727 second officer. In the summer of 1970 the famous BRAC strike put him on the streets. He obtained odd jobs like janitorial work in offices. He was recalled back to the line - flying copilot on the B-727. This airplane was foundational to his career, as he qualified for and filled all three crew positions on that aircraft.
Don would eventually upgrade to captain on the B-727, flying domestic out of the Minneapolis base. In addition to the B-727, Don earned FAA type ratings in the B-747 classic, B-747-4, B-757, B-767, and the DC-10. Don was asked to serve as an instructor with NWA flight training and became known as one of their best captain instructors. Don had a natural gift for teaching. He awed others with his ability to teach pitch and power flying. The legendary Paul Soderlind would have been proud of Don’s work. In the later 1980s Don became the DC-10 training manager at NWA.
Like many of his peers, Don’s last crew assignment before mandatory retirement was as captain on the B-747-400 at Detroit. Don put away his uniform and flight bag on June 14, 1998.
During his airline career and into retirement, Don could often be found repairing old motorhomes, cars and boats as he never bought anything new! And did he ever collect stuff? Tons of stuff. He acquired a few airplanes (two float planes and a Cessna) which he loved to fly back and forth to the family lake house in Hayward, WI. He also owned a warehouse out on the family farm in Castle Rock where he would store boats in the winter for people.
While still flying the line, Don enjoyed buying the latest tech gadgets on his Asian layovers. Amy reports that is possible that every moment of her life was caught on film or video, as he often came home with new cameras as toys to test and play with. He once came home with a Japanese pachinko machine.
In retirement Don was a ball of energy. He enjoyed woodworking and clock making. The Jurries home in Bloomington was full of clocks, he even made his own grandfather’s clock. He had an entire woodworking studio set up in their garage in Clearwater, FL.
Don’s favorite place to be in the summer was at the lake in Hayward, WI. He would fish or spend time pottering about in the numerous sheds filled with all the things he had collected over the years. He loved collecting old antique outboard boat motors.
On September 6, 2021, after a long illness, Don lost his wife Susan Kay. His children lost their devoted mother. As parents Don and Susan shared a love of spending time with their kids and grandkids.
Don Jurries is survived by his son Donald L. Jurries II, and daughters Lorna S. Jurries, Amy E. Jurries, and grandchildren.
It is hard to imagine a more congenial pilot to be in the cockpit with during a long, difficult trip pattern than Don Jurries. He was an extraordinary gentleman. Don you were a real gem.
(- Amy Jurries and Bill Day)