July 6, 2000
Kentfield, CA - Don Blessing, who was the oldest living Olympic Gold Medalist in the sport of crew and a University of California Hall of Fame member, passed away on Tuesday, July 4 at the Marin General Hospital in Kentfield. He was 94 years old.
Born on December 26, 1905, Blessing was the coxswain of the Cal crew which went undefeated during the 1928 season, won the Olympic Trials and went on to capture a Gold Medal for the United States in Amsterdam. It was the first of three University of California crews to win an Olympic Gold Medal. The Bears also accomplished the same feat in 1932 and '48. Blessing was named, along with the 1928 Olympic Crew, to the National Rowing Hall of Fame in 1967.
The work of Blessing during the 1928 Olympic Finals was described by New York Times correspondent Wythe Williams as "one of the greatest performances of demonical howling ever heard on a terrestrial planet....He gave the impression of a terrier suddenly gone mad. But such languarge and what a vocabulary!... One closed his eyes and waited for the crack of a cruel whip across the backs of the galley slaves."
Noted as a tenacious leader during his years as an athlete, Blessing went on to many successes in other fields after he concluded his athletic career at the '28 Olympics. He served as a stock broker for Henry F. Swift Co. in San Francisco for 50 years, until he retired in 1979.
Blessing was one of eight original owners of the Oakland Raiders football team which came to the Bay Area in 1960. While he later sold his interest in the team, he was actively involved in following all local sports teams including his alma mater.
He remained close friends with several Cal football coaches including Tom Holmoe, Steve Mariucci, Bruce Snyder, Joe Kapp among others. He was a founding member of the San Francisco Grid Club, a support group that met regularly during football season and donated generously to the Cal Football program.
Blessing also has been instrumental in supporting Cal men's crew over the years and played a key role in luring current head coach Steve Gladstone back to Cal in 1998. Gladstone has led the Golden Bears to consecutive national championships in 1999 and 2000.
Blessing is survived by daughter, Sherrell Fallat of Graeagle, CA and son Don Blessing Jr of Newport Beach, CA. He had five grandchildren Warren Fallat, Duncan Fallat, Anne Fallat-Gibford, Darcy Porter and Kellae Blessing along with several great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held on Monday, July 10 at 1:00 p.m. in the Travers Big Game Room in Memorial Stadium at Cal. The family has asked that donations in his memory be directed to the Friends of Cal Men's Crew, c/o Sanford M. Skaggs, PO Box V, Walnut Creek, CA 94596