A Special Holiday Card Gives Tribute To Black Oaks And Donald L. Donegan

Have you ever heard of Black Oaks?  No.  Then, I’ll tell you.  Black Oaks is a beautiful estate consisting of a main house, whose deck spreads out to embrace the swift waters of the Rogue River, and a series of smaller dwellings, each with their own features.  There are black oaks on the property, but it got its name from Captain Black, who lived there in the 1930s.  Since then, the estate has witnessed several owners, including Harris Allen, director of the Rogue Valley Ranch School, a private academy for troubled youths.  But that was many years ago.  Now the Donegan family are the watchful owners of the estate and the llamas have replaced the cries of wayward boys. I remember driving out to Black Oaks along Pine Gate Way, being sure to keep to the branch which led to the river.  Don, a bluff man with light hair, of Irish vintage, would lead me to the deck which his wife, “Pammy”  had already furnished with glasses of cold lemonade and an inviting platter of chocolate chip cookies.  Lively conversation would follow, with Don taking on an authoritarian air, exuding the confidence of a CEO used to being in charge.  I listened carefully, not always agreeing, but imbibing the wisdom of this successful businessman.  And so  we talked, while we gazed out at the rushing river so resplendent in its blue dress, not noticing the time which was also rushing by.  One visit followed another until one day the table was vacant, and Don’s voice had disappeared among the pine…

“As usual the Rogue River flows past our doorstep and presents a wonderful autumn aquacade, which rivals the best of Hollywood’s Esther Williams productions for our viewing pleasure.  Lithe silver bodies cut and turn through the water, acrobatically jumping, churning and thrashing as scores of the huge salmon jockey for the best spawning spots in the clear, gravelly shallows.  After years of traversing the oceans, they return from hundreds and perhaps even thousands of miles to deposit their own offspring from the same spot they originated.  Quite a sight to see, and a vivid, turbulent reminder of the Cycle of Life! Generally, autumn announces its arrival at Black Oaks with a magnificent splash of vibrant orange, yellow and red leaves fluttering in the breezes.  But this year has been a little different.  One of our showiest past performers just off the corner of Don’s home office had to be removed this past spring because of damage the roots were causing to the walkways and septic system.  And somehow the other surrounding trees and shrubs seem to have taken note of the loss and are presenting a more subdued mien in their attitude of mourning. Perhaps this is fitting as this particular autumn lacks its usual sparkle for me because Don is not here to share it…  Don passed away on September 16 after several years struggling against the erosion of time, physical failure and the odds against living forever.  For someone who was not expected by the doctors of the time to live beyond his twenties, he took great pleasure in trying to make the most of each day of his life and he experienced a certain glee.. after he reached 80… One close friend… reminded me of our younger days in California when Don and three other inseparable comrades loved to play gin rummy, hunt and swap stories over cocktails.  Because Don had chronic health problems…  the other fellows thought Don was sure to expire first, but like the good card player he was, he turned the table one last time and was the last to fall…”(Holiday Card from Pam Donegan)

About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

4 Responses to A Special Holiday Card Gives Tribute To Black Oaks And Donald L. Donegan

  1. auntyuta says:

    “One of our showiest past performers just off the corner of Don’s home office had to be removed this past spring because of damage the roots were causing to the walkways and septic system.”
    This is a dilemma I can sympathize with for just now we are experiencing problems like this in our immediate neighborhood.
    “For someone who was not expected by the doctors of the time to live beyond his twenties, he took great pleasure in trying to make the most of each day of his life, and he experienced a certain glee.. after he reached 80…”
    This sounds marvellous!
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful memories about visiting the Donegans.

  2. Black Oaks is a special place, and Don was a kind man.

  3. rommel says:

    Ow… It sounds like he lived a very meaningful, serene and peaceful life though. Being with nature, the way you described it, must be a nice way to wake up to even when he’s in dire situation.
    I love the way you put this all together, Robert. Very well presented post and tribute to a friend.

  4. Thanks for your kind, supportive comments, Rommel. They are greatly appreciated!

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