Let the memory of Donald be with us forever
  • 86 years old
  • Born on April 2, 1928 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, United States.
  • Passed away on April 3, 2014 in Piedmont, Alabama, United States.

This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Donald Dessart, 86, born on April 2, 1928 and passed away on April 3, 2014.  We will remember him forever.


College Professor and Korean War Veteran

Dr. Donald Joseph Dessart (Don/Dad/Grampa Don/Papa), 86, passed away peacefully on April 3 at Piedmont Health Care Center in Piedmont, AL.  He was born on April 2, 1928 in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the son of the late Eli Joseph Dessart and Mary Octavia (Warrichaiet) Dessart.  In addition to his parents, Don is predeceased by his beloved wife of 60 years, Gloria Jean (Clemons) Dessart and a sister, Arlene DuFresne.  He is survived by a sister, Nancy (Jerry) Boettcher; children, Mary Newsome, Tom Dessart, Jean (Rob) Rush, Brian (Jamie) Dessart, and Ruth (Milton) Mason; grandchildren, Ryan (Cassie) Rush, Beth Rush, Joseph (Tiffany) Rush, Aimee Mason, Katie Dessart, Wesley Mason and Abby Dessart; a great grandson, Reef Rush; and many cousins, nephews and nieces.  His guiding wisdom, wonderful sense of humor and loving nature will be greatly missed.

Don graduated from West High School in Green Bay in 1946 where he was senior class president.  He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a Naval ROTC scholarship graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in Mathematics Education and was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Navy on June 16, 1950.  He married Gloria on June 17, 1950 in Green Bay.  He served aboard the USS Los Angeles, a heavy cruiser, as a gunnery officer making two combat deployments to Korea during the Korean War.  Don left active duty in 1953 but served in the Naval Reserve until 1960 attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  He was very proud of his service and was always interested in talking about the Navy.

Following the war Don taught high school math for two years in Escanaba, Michigan and Monona, Wisconsin.  After receipt of his Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Wisconsin-Madison he took a teaching position at State University of New York-Oneonta.  He completed his PhD in Mathematics Education in 1961 at the University of Maryland in College Park.  In 1962 Don accepted a position at the University of Tennessee as a professor in the departments of Mathematics and Math Education so he and Gloria moved the family to Knoxville.  Don taught at UT for over 40 years retiring as a Professor Emeritus.  He had a passion for teaching bringing a special gift for making complex mathematical principles more understandable to students who were intimidated by or less inclined toward mathematics.

Dr. Dessart accumulated numerous professional achievements.  He published over 60 articles in various professional journals.  He served on several committees of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and as Vice-President and President of the Tennessee Mathematics Teachers Assoc.  Don also served as the Director of the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and chaired the editorial board of the Journal for Research in Mathematics.  His awards and honors include Who’s Who in America, the John B. Tunstall Award as Outstanding Faculty Member (3 times), the Excellence in Humanity and Teaching Award and the Helen B. Watson Faculty/Student Outstanding Dissertation Award.  Don’s two crowning professional achievements were his election as the UT Macebearer for 1998-99, the highest honor for a faculty member, and the 2002 NCTM Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Service to Mathematics Education.

Don, a life-long Episcopalian, was a faithful member of the following churches: the Church of the Ascension, Tyson House and Good Samaritan.  He was active in each church serving in many capacities.

Don was a sports enthusiast and an avid fan of his hometown Green Bay Packers.  He loved to read, especially history.  He also had a passion for genealogy compiling an impressive collection of family history.  Don and Gloria travelled to his ancestral Belgium where he made contact with distant cousins.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Church of the Good Samaritan, 425 N. Cedar Bluff Rd, Knoxville, TN 37923 or Piedmont Health Care Center, 30 Roundtree Dr, Piedmont, AL 36272 (enter “Indigent Fund” in memo line).

Posted by Nancy D. Boettcher on 4th April 2017
Don, I still miss you and our phone calls. We always exchanged our love for each other. I usually called it first but our last conversation just before your last Thanksgiving before your stroke, you managed to call it first. My memories of you are many. I thank God I have had you in my life. Love you --- your "baby sister" Nan.
Posted by Jim Parkinson on 6th April 2016
Growing up, I remember it was always special when Uncle Don and Aunt Glory (who nicknamed me was "Pooch") visited us in Green Bay. When they bought a new Ford, they took us to see a movie at the Starlight Outdoor Theater. While stationed at USNTC,Bainbridge, MD, spent a weekend at their home in Oneonta. Our loss is Heaven's gain.
Posted by Jim Parkinson on 9th April 2015
My Aunt Gloria was like a big sister. I remember first meeting Uncle Don when I was maybe 9 years old. I was there at their wedding. He's one of the reasons I joined the Navy (Gunfire Control Technician). http://www.navy.mil/navydata/nav_legacy.asp?id=172 My heartfelt condolences to Nancy, Mary, Tom, Jean, Brian, and Ruth, all of whom I remember from long ago. Last visited with Uncle Don and Aunt Gloria in April, 1977, at their home in Knoxville. A gentleman's gentleman, and a scholar's scholar. So long, Uncle Don, I know how much you are missed by family, friends, former students, and shipmates, 'Fair winds, and following seas.'
Posted by Nancy D. Boettcher on 3rd April 2015
Big Brother Don, you were always there for your "baby sister" as you called me. That was how you referred to me until you met the funeral director for our mother's funeral who I had had in kindergarten. I was always thankful for that cup of coffee that you took at the RIGHT time on board the USS Los Angeles. That certainly was a God moment for all of us. You have spent 1 year in heaven.
Posted by Mary Newsome on 3rd April 2015
Although it is difficult for me to accept that it's been one year since we lost you, I feel comfort knowing you are at peace and with God. You had such a strong faith, which you kept throughout your life. I miss you terribly, Dad, but I know someday I will be reunited with you again. I thank God that I was blessed with the best father ever.
Posted by James Baker on 2nd April 2015
Gone, but not forgotton. 62 years ago (1953)we were together in Korea and took some hits aboard the heavy cruiser USS Los Angeles on March 27th--a close call for you--an unwanted Birthday present. Thankful for the memories we shared with our families after being reunited many years later in Knoxville.
Posted by Mary Rayson on 17th July 2014
John and Don became very close friends during the time they both were exercising at Ft. Sanders West. Don and Gloria were wonderful individuals and will always be fondly remembered. I am sorry I cannot be at the service today
Posted by Terri Hopkins on 8th July 2014
I just heard of Dr. Dessart's passing. He was a tremendous teacher and the mentor that led me to believe I could earn my doctorate. A wonderful man-the world is richer for his contributions. My condolences to his family.
Posted by Shirley Frye on 23rd April 2014
Don was an outstanding leader and a great contributor to mathematics education because he was always a special teacher. Every one of us benefitted from learning from him in committees, boards, task forces, and each conversation with him. HIs dedication to the profession has been exemplary. I cherished his friendship through the decades. He leaves a great legacy to his students and his colleagues.
Posted by Jennifer Sexton on 17th April 2014
Prayers and sincerest sympathy to all of Dr. Dessart's loved ones. He was my undergraduate adviser at U-T, 1966-1970, and was always very encouraging and helpful. I got to know him better when he became my major professor and taught several of the courses I completed as I worked on an M. S. in Math Education that was received in 1977. I framed and still treasure the note he wrote to tell me I'd passed my comprehensive exams. I'll always be grateful for the recommendation he gave me that was very influential in my being chosen in 1980 to join the mathematics dept. at Cumberland College (now University of the Cumberlands), where I remained for 24 years. I was thrilled when he became a consultant to our dept. and came up to visit and observe--and went to lunch with us!! That was about 2003 and was the last time I got to see him. He was a brilliant scholar and educator and I deeply admired and respected him. May the Lord be with you and give you His strength, guidance, comfort, and peace. With Christian love, Jennifer Reed Sexton, Helenwood, TN.
Posted by James Baker on 15th April 2014
My memories of Don started aboard the heavy cruiser USS Los Angeles. We both served in Fox Division and made two combat tours in Korea. Thanks to our old ship, we were once again reunited in Knoxville, TN along with our families. Anchors Away Shipmate, you will be missed.
Posted by Jack Glover on 10th April 2014
I have never known anyone in my life who I would characterize as a "gentleman and a scholar" until I came to know Mr. Dessart. As a math professor he clearly qualified as scholar. As a person he was also a true gentleman. Soft spoken were his words, but every word he spoke was genuine and sincere. He had a wry sense of humor and a chuckle that was unmistakeable. I found myself saying things to him that I knew would elicit that "little chuckle" just because I liked to hear it. I kind of think he enjoyed it too. Don was always interested in what people had to say and he was a good listener; something my wife always pointed out to me. I enjoyed the many times I visited Mr. Dessart. They were special and rewarding times for me. We enjoyed each other's company but perhaps none more so then when I'd show up with his favorite-a meatball sandwich. He never failed to finish a sandwich. I will miss this "gentleman and scholar" as will all members of the Dessart family. But heaven is a richer place now because of his presence there.
Posted by Polly Anna Harris on 9th April 2014
Don Dessart was the teacher who made it possible for me to obtain my masters degree at UT 18 years after I earned a B.A. That enabled me to return to a marvelous teaching career of 20 more years. I join the family of Dr. Dessart in remembering him with admiration.
Posted by Laura Mccormick on 9th April 2014
Along with my father, my sweet uncle Don was a mentor to me as a teacher. His love of education was contagious for me as a young girl. And I have awesome memories of our talks later in life as to the state of schools. But most of all, I will remember his gentleness, sense of humor and loving good nature. Love you uncle Don
Posted by Marilyn Way on 7th April 2014
Never from the presence of Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Posted by Andrea Huntington on 7th April 2014
God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others...

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