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updated: 7/18/2011 4:59 PM

Former Wheaton mayor Don Maxwell dies

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  • Don Maxwell

    Don Maxwell


Don Maxwell tried to impart a global understanding to his children: Foreign exchange students frequently stayed at his home in the 1980s and he encouraged his daughter to study abroad.

When Wheaton hosted a Russian contingent in the late 1980s, he opened his home to one of the educators.

But as respectful as he was of other cultures, he was also steeped in patriotism and believed strongly in local government. He served on the Wheaton City Council from 1984 to 1992 and as interim mayor from mid-1992 until the 1993 election.

"He took great pride in knowing that he helped control the growth of Wheaton," said Judy Maxwell, his wife of 48 years. "He didn't like being in the forefront but was very comfortable making decisions, usually from a background role."

Maxwell, one of the drivers behind what City Manager Don Rose said was the last period of real growth in Wheaton, died of congestive heart failure and an enlarged heart at a Florida hospice on Saturday. He was 73.

Maxwell is survived by his wife; his son, Robert; his daughter, Kelly Parra; his sister, Jeanine Freyling; and nine grandchildren, four great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

Parra said her earliest memory was, at age 3, helping her father during a political campaign by passing out fliers. Those efforts to make his children value public service seem to have paid off. His son, Robert, 41, is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. Parra, 43, is a registered nurse. She said one of her most memorable trips was a family trip to Washington D.C.

"He took us there to make sure we knew the roots of our country," she said. "To make sure we knew that we owe this country a debt of gratitude."

But while he imparted his patriotism on his children, the Decatur-born Maxwell also taught them to look at other cultures.

"He encouraged us to know not only about our city and our community and country, but that we weren't alone in the world," Kelly said. "He encouraged us to understand our world while also taking in people from other countries to come over and experience our culture. It was to promote peace in the world. He was ahead of his time, in that respect."

During his time on the city council, the Danada shopping centers developed into a major commercial center. Maxwell was a part of that council, which at the time was just four council members and the mayor.

"He was a very principled guy," Rose said. "He strove to always do the right and proper thing. He had a great love for the city." An avid hunter and golfer, Rose said he spent several days on the links with Maxwell.

"He was a real stand-up guy, a real straight-shooter," Rose said. "He certainly let you know how he felt about things."

And how he felt about Wheaton was no mystery. His daughter, Parra, said after her father's death, she and her mother went through his clothes and noticed that each of his suits had two lapel pins on them: one of a U.S. flag and another of the City of Wheaton.

"He loved the city," she said. "He absolutely loved the city."

When then-Mayor Gwen Henry left office to pursue county government work, Maxwell took the reins. "They asked him to step up to the plate and he did," Parra said. "It was not because he wanted recognition. It was because it needed to be done. If something needed to be done, he did it."

Former Mayor Jim Carr, who followed Maxwell in office, said he looked up to him.

"He was someone I respected," Carr said. "He always tried to do what was best for Wheaton. I admired that."

Carr said Maxwell served as a mentor and that he would never forget his kindness.

"He's someone I looked up to and respected for his many years of service on the council. He was a big, big help for me personally and I will never forget. I will be forever grateful."

That reverence also followed Maxwell home.

"He was just a very good man," his wife, Judy, 72, said. "He was good to me. He was honest and a man of great integrity.

"He was my hero and my mentor," Parra said. "He taught me and my brother everything we know. I owe him everything."

Services will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Fero Funeral Home in Beverly Hills, Fla. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to HPH Hospice, 3545 N. Lecanto Highway, Beverly Hills, FL 34465.