Our condolences to the family of Don Shewfelt, native Angeleno, longtime Hancock Park resident, and 30-year president of his family’s business, Wilshire Escrow, who passed away recently at the age of 89. His family provided the following story of his life:
Donald Ralph Shewfelt, much beloved husband and father, passed away in his home on April 26, 2020, surrounded by his wife, Joan, and many of his seven children and their spouses. He was 89 years old.
Donald was born on August 21, 1930, the son of Roy Freeman Shewfelt and the former Margaret Agnes Ballman. A native Angeleno, he was proud of his hometown and a great narrator of tales of the City in the Depression era of his youth. His children were constantly regaled with wonderful tales of raising rabbits and chickens in his backyard to sell around the neighborhood; of the kids on his street who formed an athletic club called the Carmona Diablos, who competed against like sports teams from neighboring blocks like Ridgeley and Dunsmuir; of hunting rabbits in the Baldwin Hills with a bow and arrow; of going to a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Del Mar Theater, which included a double feature and an Abba Zabba bar; of hitchhiking to Loyola High School down Venice Blvd. and getting picked up in less than a minute because he wore his ROTC uniform; and of other tales that hail from an era seemingly long-forgotten. After his parents’ divorce, he developed an unbreakable bond with his mother, Marge, and formed his ideas of the good and moral man he wished to be. His family would forever benefit from that.
Don attended college after graduating from high school and immersed himself in the baseball leagues around town, at Los Angeles City College and later Loyola University. He remained a passionate devotee of the sport throughout his life. When he played competitively, he was known as the “Big Right Hander.” He served in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1951 to 1953, an experience that created a whole new panorama of tales for his family. His time on the baseball diamond and his time in the world of war dovetailed to sharpen his sensibilities, and they marked him ever after as a man of conscience and bravery, who never failed to uphold the values of camaraderie and dedication to a collective purpose. He emerged from these, too, with both a keen appreciation of the absurd and a marvelous capacity for light-heartedness under adverse conditions. This was the recipe for his legendary wit, which spared no one and was a delight to all.
Shortly after returning from military service, Don met Joan Catherine Aker, the love of his life and partner in all his future endeavors. They married in 1955 and created a family of seven adoring children. Don had also begun working for his father’s firm, Wilshire Escrow Company, where he quickly emerged as an industry leader. He ultimately became President of the Company in 1970 and guided Wilshire Escrow, along with his brothers Richard and Lawrence, to periods of great success and an unparalleled reputation for commercial transactions and tax-deferred exchanges. The platform he created lives on today, long after his retirement in 2001.
Don was an avid golfer, passing on the love of the game to his four sons. He was a 45-year member of Wilshire Country Club and played the game with zeal and competitiveness. He cherished the friendships and playing partners he made through over sixty years of playing golf. He was a great playing partner himself and his company on the course was much desired by other members of all ages.
Don was active in professional escrow associations, not to mention his children’s schools and his parish, Cathedral Chapel. He had a tremendous reputation for impeccable ethics, hard work, unquestioned dependability and efficiency in all his endeavors.
But for all the recognition that Donald received professionally, in athletic or other endeavors, nothing ever brought him the joy and satisfaction that he received from his wife and children. He was an active, engaged spouse and parent, the envy of every kid on the block as he would come out and play baseball, basketball, football and other games with his kids. He and Joan mentored their children by their tireless efforts, high moral standards, and by immersing them in exhilarating vacations and trips. They ultimately settled on the annual family vacation in Wawona, along the South Fork of the Merced River in Yosemite, at the family home dubbed “Shew’s Chalet.” His verve and vitality later made him the object of great affection from sixteen grandchildren, all of whom benefited greatly from the large extended family cocoon created by Don and Joan. To his adoring family, he will always be remembered for being a playful gentleman, a role model, a stand-up mensch, and “Our Hero.” He and Joan led epic lives within the history of Los Angeles. But his highest ambitions were always to be a good husband, father, and man for others. In those, he was a consummate success.
Don is survived by his wife of over 64 years, Joan, his children Eric (Olga Lucia), Mary Hughes (Kenneth), Kristin, John Shewfelt (Layne), Kurt (Jeralee), Ellen Multari (Alfred) and Craig (Maki), sixteen grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and his brother Richard. He was preceded in death by his beloved mother, Marge, his father Roy, his brothers Leonard and Lawrence, and grandson, Kyle.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of Don’s favorite charities:
A Celebration of Life will be held when appropriate at a later date to be advised.
For even more photos of Don and his family, see Wilshire Escrow’s Don Shewfelt tribute page.