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Donald W. Sawtelle, Jr.

Company B-1
7 Jul 1937- 14 Apr 2021
Place of Death: Braselton, GA.
Interment: Park Hill Cemetery, Columbus, GA

It is with great regret and sorrow that I must notify you of the death of our Classmate, Don Sawtelle, on 14 April 2021, in Braselton, GA., following a long illness.

Don is survived by his wife, Jo; their daughter, Stacy Adams and her husband, David; their son, Donald III; and their grandchildren, Tripp Adams, Ally Faith Adams, Jaylee Skains and her husband, Christian, Emily Sawtelle, and Donald Sawtelle IV.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 PM on 22 April at Perimeter Church, 9500 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek, GA 30097.

Burial will be at 2 PM on 23 April at Park Hill Cemetery, 4161 Macon Road, Columbus, GA 31907

Condolences may be sent to Jo at 6062 Allee Way, Braselton, GA 30517-6031.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Don’s memory may be sent to Perimeter Church, 9500 Medlock Bridge Road, Johns Creek, GA 30097.


Class Memorial Pages\B-1 Don Sawtelle.pdf


Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:


Cullum No. 23791-1961 | April 14, 2021 | Died in Braselton, GA
Cremated. Ashes scattered.

Donald William “Don” Sawtelle Jr. was born July 7, 1937 to Colonel Donald W. Sawtelle, USMA Class of 1918 November, and Vivian T. Sawtelle at Fort Riley, KS. The family accompanied his dad to the Philippines in 1939 and was sent home on the last ship out of the country as World War II began. He grew up in Corpus Christi, TX and lived there until his dad, who fought and survived the Bataan Death March, was freed from captivity after three years. His dad returned to recuperate for three years in the U.S. Army Hospital in Phoenixville, PA. 

Determined to follow in his father’s footsteps, Don attended prep school in Washington, DC and entered West Point on July 2, 1957. His father mustered the strength to live until Don graduated.

Don’s cadet days were filled with corps squad squash and tennis, close relationships with dear friends, and a running gun battle with the academic departments, which he ultimately won. The Class of 1961 marched in President John Kennedy’s Inaugural Parade, but Don was the only member of the class who, two years later, also served in JFK’s funeral ceremonies as commander of the death watch.

Although neither knew it at the time, the lives of Don and Jo Claridy changed forever on the Class of 1961’s First-Class trip. They met on a blind date at Fort Benning, GA, and when Don returned to the Infantry School in 1961 for the basic course, he contacted Jo at Agnes Scott College. Their romance grew, and they were engaged by Christmas but waited impatiently to be married until Don returned from Korea and joined “The Old Guard” (3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment). Don was OIC of the Tomb Guards and was selected to take the Honor Guard Company to Pall Mall, TN for the funeral of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Alvin York. Sergeant York was a folk hero to the people in the hills of Tennessee. They lined the streets and treated Don with equal respect as he led the military funeral honors. 

A highlight of Don’s distinguished military career was his serving as company commander, A Company, 2-28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, Vietnam. Don received multiple awards for valor and was one of the main characters of the book June 17, 1967 Battle of Xon Bo II by David Hearne. Don’s morale was sustained during his Vietnam tour by the knowledge that his infant daughter Stacy, born shortly after his arrival in country, awaited his return. 

Don’s next assignment was to secure a master’s degree at Purdue University in preparation for joining the Department of Military Psychology and Leadership at USMA. 

While at West Point, Don and Jo welcomed their second child, Trey. Don was very proud and very close to his children and grandchildren; he was a star in their eyes as well.

Because of his previous performance and expertise, Don was delayed from a command assignment at Fort Benning to help plan the inauguration of President Jimmy Carter. Don had the unique experience of walking down Pennsylvania Avenue with the new president. 

Don was consistently promoted below the zone of consideration, had been selected to attend the Army War College and seemed destined for advanced promotion. While assigned as IG, Recruiting Command, however, he and Jo decided to retire from active duty and return to Columbus, GA. 

Don’s experiences in command, ODCSP, and MDW prepared him for his second career as personnel director of Swift Textiles in Columbus. Don implemented a plan for continuing education for employees and served as an officer in the Columbus Georgia Business Association. He was very proud of his company, took good care of his employees, and “praised all people who wore denim.” The company loved Don for his work ethic, good humor, and dedication to helping all succeed and invited him to move to corporate headquarters in Atlanta. He served as senior vice president for marketing services and then for all human resources until retiring in 1998. 

Again, Don could stand retirement for only a short time and pursued employment with Perimeter Church, where he and Jo had become active. The church was seeking to add an HR director. Five minutes into Don’s interview, Pastor Gordon Moore said, “You’re the one.” This began Don’s third highly successful career, which became the summation of his life. As the church grew Don expanded their HR services, including the difficult task of adding medical coverage for their growing staff. More importantly he helped people through counseling, job training, achieving citizenship, leading, and mentoring. Don became an elder in the church and led men’s retreats. When Don became ill, he received over 20 letters from church staff attesting to his caring professionalism. Anyone would be proud to have their staff use such words and phrases as “excellence, professionalism, faithfulness, kindness, Christ-likeness, caring, developed people, helping, smiling, laughter, love of country, family and the Lord, humility, compassion, make people feel important, I know God used you, and I admire everything you and Jo stand for.” These and many more words of praise were shared by Pastor Moore at Don’s crowded funeral service.

At the top of Don’s list was always care for his family: granddaughters Ally Faith, ER nurse; Jaylee, Auburn graduate; and Emily, Auburn student; grandsons Tripp, UGA graduate and staffer on Capitol Hill, and Donald William Sawtelle IV, high school senior who has opened an admission file at West Point. Don is enormously proud of them all.

Don was well known for his sense of humor and his love of family, as well as a practicing and witnessing Christian who has helped more people than anyone will ever know. There is no doubt that he received a “well done thou good and faithful servant” when he joined his Savior.

— Jo and classmates