Digital transcription in July 2002 by Tom L. McFarland

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Don Anderson was born at home on May 29, 1907 to Elsie Nenno Anderson and William Chester Anderson in Springfield, Minnesota. He was the oldest of three children. His two younger siblings were girls. Margie, five years younger than Don, died in a tragic car accident at age nine. Kathleen, ten years younger than Don, is eighty years old (in 1997) and living in the Kansas City area.

Don's paternal grandfather came to the United States from Norway. He was a blacksmith and owned several farms. He was the sheriff of Brown County (the county seat was New Ulm). Don's father, Bill, was a barber. He owned two shops in Springfield and then one in Mankato when the family moved there around 1922.

Don's maternal grandparents were John Nenno (a Civil War veteran who had been injured in the war and lived on a disability pension) and Margaret Ellen Lynch. John Nenno was of Alsace-Lorraine ancestry, which could be French or German depending upon your political leanings. Margaret Ellen was Irish Catholic, and she ran a boarding house in New Ulm. Don's mother, Elsie, was one of twelve children and lived to be nearly 102 years old. She died on April 27, 1991 - eleven days short of her 102nd birthday.

Don grrew up in Springfield, attending the public schools except for grades six or seven. At that time he was switched to the Catholic school so he could make his first communion and be confirmed. He went back to the public school in eighth grade because Elsie thought the public schools were better at the time. His family moved to Mankato his sophomore year in high school. He stayed in Springfield living with an uncle so he could complete the school year and then joined his family in Mankato. He graduated from Mankato High School in 1925.

For the first year after high school Don worked as a laborer in Montana for his uncle Bill Roscoe's construction company. In the fall of 1926 he staarted college at the University of Minnesota. During his summers and also the school year of 1927-28 he worked construction for Bill Roscoe. His means of transportation between Minnesota and Montana was to "ride the rails with the hobos". He was a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity while in college and graduated in 1931 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He paid his entire way through college earning money working construction for his uncle, waiting tables - two years at the Delta Zeta sorority house and two years at a fraternity, advanced ROTC and boxing for money on the side (receiving $25.00 for a three round bout).

While in college, Don started boxing. He won two Golden Gloves tournaments as a 160 lb. middleweight. During his sophomore year boxing became a college sport. He fought both intercollegiate and interfraternity bouts. He won the University of Minnesota middleweight championships three years in a row. He also fought and won light heavyweight bouts and was crowned fraternity light heavyweight champion. He was known for knocking out his opponents. He also did some boxing for pay on the side to earn spending money. In those days the rules weren't quite so strict, and many of the collegiate boxers did this boxing under a different name.

Don met his future wife, Aleen Rigg, while working on one of his uncle's construction jobs in Montana. His first cousin, Marguerite Roscoe, who was an Alpha Gamma Delta sorority sister of Aleen's at Montana State University, introduced them in 1928. They were engaged almost 3 years before they were married January 12, 1932.

They had four children:
  Mona Joan - June 8, 1939
LaDonna Mary - October 17, 1939
Stephanie Ann - August 14, 1943
Donald Nicholas - May 10. 1948

Afteer his college graduation in 1931, Don went to work for his uncle Bill Roscoe as foreman running jobs in both Montana and Wyoming. He did this until 1941 when the U.S. entered World War II.

While in college, Don became good friends with two of his Sig Ep fraternity brothers from El Paso, Texas - Tom Hansen and Jim Dunn. They talked about going into the construction business one day after they got out of college. This would not happen until 1948, though, because of the Depression and the onset of World War II.

Don had a commission in the Army Reserve due to his ROTC involvement in college. It had to be renewed periodically. He chose not to renew it, but instead applied for and received a Commission in the Civil Engineering Corps of the Navy. He became a Senior Grade Lieutenant in the Navy Reserve in 1939. During this time he continued to work for his uncle, and he and Aleen had two little girls - Mona and Donna. War broke out in Europe in 1939, and when a "national emergency" was declared in 1941 he was called up for active duty. Pearl Harbor was bombed December, 1941, and the U.S. entered World War II.

His assignment was to represent the Navy's interest in building dry-docks by civilian construction companies at Naval shipyards. It was his job to see that these construction companies got the job done properly, on time, and did not overcharge the Navy. His first tour of duty was to oversee three Naval shipyards in the New York City area - 1941 to 1943. From 1943 to 1945 he was in Everett, Washington. In 1945 he went to Inyokern, a Naval base in the middle of the California Mojave Desert. Besides the Navy presence in this area, the Army was building a rocket testing station in conjunction with the Manhattan Project (the development of the atomic bomb). This is an interesting aside and everything was top secret. At the end of the summer of 1945 he was sent to Richmond, California where he was to supervise the building of three floating vessels which were to be sunk in Tokyo Harbor to be used as protection for U.S. forces in a land invasion on Japan. The invasion was never to be because the U.S. ddropped the bomb on Japan and World War II ended. After the cancellation of the building of the three vessels, he was saent to Europe and North Africa to salvage and repair a dry dock the British were towing across the Atlantic which had broken loose in the mediterranean and gone aground in Algiers. Don's family traveled to each assignment with the exception of his European assignment, and also during the war in 1943 Stephanie was born. After the repair of the dry dock was completed in 1946, Don left the Navy as a commander for civilian life.

In 1946 he moved his family to El Paso, Texas. His old college friend, Tom Hansen, arranged for him to get a job with the Lee Moore Construction Company in El Paso. Tom was working for Lee Moore at the time. Don worked for Lee Moore for two years, and in 1948 while working on a government canal job in California, he and Tom worked out their business plans to go out on their own. Don Jr was born in El Paso at this time.

Two bridge jobs came up for bid in Phoenix, Arizona, and Lee Moore agreed to let Don and Tom bid the jobs in his name. So they were now realizing their college dream of going into business on their own. Don moved his family to Phoenix during the summer of 1948. Tom ran the office and the business end of the company out of El Paso, and Don ran the jobs. Jim Dunn joined them in 1949. They formed two construction companies - Western Constructors, Inc. in Phoenix and Hansen, Anderson, and Dunn in El Paso. They did work in Arizona, New Mexico, and west Texas. They built highways, bridges, underpasses, overpasses, and some earthen dams in Arizona and mostly bridges in El Paso. In Arizona they built stretches of I-10, I-8, Black Canyon Highway, I-40 and I-19 to Nogales. During his years in the construction business, Don was a member of the Associated General Contractors, and he served for their Board of Directors for several years.

After forty years of marriage in July of 1972, Aleen passed away very suddenly leaving a big void in his life. In 1974 while attending a wedding at the Camelback Inn he met a widow, Marjorie Staples Lee. She had also been widowed quite unexpectedly in May of 1972. They were introduced bt an old famly friend, Frank Middleton. They dated for two years and were married on April 9, 1976. They have now been married for 21 years (in 1997).

In 1976 Don, aged 69, and Tom and Jim decided to retire from their very successful 28 years in the construction business. They liquidated their companies by selling off their equipment and retired. Both Tom and Jim have passed away.

Don had kept physically active all these years keeping up, although in a modified form, with the exercise regimen he followed in his boxing days. His knees may be a little tired, but he does keep walking and working out. It is because of this and his good genes that he looks far younger than his 90 years.

We wish him many, many more years of happy healthy life.

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