Donald “Don” Keirn died at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum on Oct. 13, 2021, after a struggle with blood cancer. Don maintained his lucidity, and his wonderful sense of humor remained intact until his passing, leaving this world decidedly on his own terms just as he lived his long and storied life.
Don was born on Nov. 23, 1929, in Gary, Indiana, in U.S. Steel Company housing to William and Florence (Snyder) Keirn. Growing up during the Great Depression in the middle west had a lifelong impact, impressing upon him a remarkable work ethic (working in one form or another until he was 91) as well as a “thrifty” disposition. Growing up, Don spent each summer on his mother’s family farm in Marshall, Missouri where he learned how to raise hogs, grow corn, and developed his lifelong passion for hunting and fishing.
His family moved to Upland, California in 1946 where his father was hired as a mill superintendent in the newly built Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana. Don graduated from Chaffee High School in 1947 and he enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was his platoon’s sergeant. After a lone year in the Army, he returned to California where he followed in his father’s footsteps working in the steel mill, serving in the Army Reserve and attending Chaffee Community College. He eventually decided to further his education by attending UCLA where he pursued a degree in business and after graduation, he returned to Kaiser Steel, moving from the mill floor to the role of inside salesman.
At UCLA, Don met Jo Ann Bolin and they married in 1953. His remarkable career trajectory at Kaiser Steel continued as he moved to outside sales, was promoted to manager of the tin plate division, and becoming the general manager of the entire corporation. Don also served a term as President of the American Iron and Steel Institute. Don’s career at Kaiser took him, Jo Ann and their two children to Whittier, California; Walnut Creek, California; Fair Haven, New Jersey; and Moraga, California.
In 1981, Kaiser Steel went out of business, which lead to the next phase of Don’s life. It was at this time that Don and Jo Ann came to reside in the Wood River Valley. Since the 1930s, Jo Ann’s great aunt was a long-time resident in Lower Stanley and from the 1950s onwards, Don and family made regular vacations to the area, eventually purchasing a Ranch condo in Elkhorn as a second home in the 1970s. It had always been his favorite place to enjoy the great outdoors. Between 1981 and 1987, they owned and operated the Speedy B, a small property management business in Ketchum and Don also worked a few years as a local realtor.
In 1987, Don was appointed the Director of Economic Development for the city of Boise where he oversaw and supported much of the city’s growth during the 1990s. After a decade in this role, he decided to retire but in his typical fashion he continued to work as a consultant but returned to Hailey with Jo Ann, who passed in 1999. Don was always one who cared about his community and was elected to the Hailey City Council in 2000 where he served for 17 years. As a city councilman, he drew upon the expertise and skills from his work in Boise to support and help manage Hailey’s recent growth. Similarly, he also understood the economic role of airports and served as the chairperson of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority from 2011 through 2020. Don also joined the board of the Hailey Senior Connection in 2018. He very much enjoyed his work for—and times at—the Senior Connection and only resigned as a consequence of failing health a few months ago.
Don married long-time Hailey resident Chris Cieslik in 2001. They experienced a wonderful two decades together, and through Chris, Don’s circle of close friends in Hailey expanded considerably. Chris and Don built a house in the Northridge development and they experienced great times together in mutual passions and pursuits, from shooting clay target sports at the Hurtig Center to bird hunting, traveling, cooking, reading, hanging out with family and family, and doting on their dogs.
Don Keirn will always be remembered for his detailed storytelling, sense of humor, exemplary fly casting, and most of all for his ability to listen and learn. He was respected and loved by all who were fortunate enough to meet him and he will be sincerely missed.
Don is survived by his wife Chris of Hailey, Idaho; a son Tim and his wife Kathleen of Long Beach, California; a grandson Peter of Brooklyn, New York; and a step-daughter Dawn Cieslik of Saratoga, California. He was preceded in death by his parents, daughter Tina, and his sister Dorothy Westwick. Don’s ashes will be interred privately at the Hailey Cemetery. A celebration of his life will take place at a later date. The family wishes to thank the kind staff, nurses, and doctors at St. Luke’s Wood River Medical Center in Ketchum. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to either the Hailey Senior Connection at https://seniorconnectionidaho.org/donate/ or the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation at https://www.mds-foundation.org/donate/. We invite family and friends to leave a memory, condolence, or a photo at woodriverchapel.com