Obituary: Santa Monica’s Donald Harry Brandsen Passes Away

Saturday, 18 May 2013, 9:35:00 AM

Mirror Staff

Donald Harry Brandsen passed away in Santa Monica, survived by his daughter Donna Brandsen Gill, granddaughters, Tara Lynn & Tamara Angel, Debbie Gibson, and Sierra Rose.

Don's tireless efforts and fight to save the Santa Monica Airport was his life for the last 35 years as the self-anointed "Warlord" and Chairman of the Santa Monica Airport Association Political Action Committee.

Donald, forever known to everyone as Don, was not a man of the mundane.  

Whether it was consorting with the Straight Satan’s MC Club (Rivals of the Hell’s Angels for influence in Venice and the Canals), playing leap-frog with a running Brush Whacker while tumbling down a steep hillside in Malibu, chasing his lost chewing gum on his first attempt at skydiving, or going up against the City of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration, Don was a man of unwavering commitment.  

He never backed down from righting an injustice, always proud to stand as the self-anointed “Warlord” and Chairman of the Santa Monica Airport Association Political Action Committee.  

Even his opponents, who locked horns with him in battle, respected him completely on a personal level. 

He understood and reveled in debate; he never feared a challenge and was graceful in defeat.  

Santa Monica Airport (KSMO) is a magical place as a result of Don’s tireless efforts.  

The fight to save the airport was his life for the last 35 years. 

Seldom do people mention the non-aviation facets of Don’s life.  

He was born in Chicago July 14, 1942 and ended up in Southern California by about 1947.

Soon after moving to the Westside, Don managed to save his family’s home by mostly putting out a fire of suspicious origins using a garden hose while his parents were gone. This impressed the firemen who arrived in time to mop up the scene.  

Eventually Don, because of extenuating circumstances, enjoyed a stint at a military academy (school).  

He served a brief stint in the Navy in Japan, managing to orchestrate an early departure while avoiding a dishonorable discharge.  

Once back in California, he worked in construction, found it to his liking and eventually became a building contractor.  When he discovered that the plumbers were making more than he was, he promptly switched trades and became a plumbing contractor thanks to his mentor Bill Shaw.   

He joined Rotary and became President of the Club.  

It seemed there was nothing Don couldn’t conquer.

After winning the battle of the Airport and help creating the 1984 Airport Agreement he needed another challenge.  

Of course he had this great love of the Airport, and when he decided he had not gotten through to us by pounding the political details of the Santa Monica Airport into our heads he decided to make a movie of the history of the airport for us to all have in perpetuity.

He enjoyed having a daughter, stepdaughter and grandchildren.  And would many times be caught dancing and singing around the room “If I were a Rich Man”.

He is survived by his daughter Donna Brandsen Gill, granddaughters, Tara Lynn and Tamara Angel, Debbie Gibson and Sierra Rose.  

He was preceded in death by his younger brother William Brandsen, mother Eleanor Estelle and father, Edgar Harry.

Don lived a full life every single day.  No time was ever wasted, battles were meant to be fought. Don always lived by example:

If he wasn’t living on the edge,

He was taking up too much space!

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