Donald J. Mohr, former chairman of the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby and an affable presence along East Beach who was always willing to pass on a fishing tip at a time when most Island fishermen were tight-lipped, died Thursday, September 20, in Georgia, far from the beaches he once called home. He was 89.
Don and Marian, his wife of 44 years, moved to West Tisbury following Don’s retirement from Wright State University in Ohio, where he was the athletic director. He quickly picked up a saltwater fishing rod.
For 26 years, Don, most often accompanied by Marian reading in their beach buggy, were fixtures on Chappaquiddick’s beaches. Even after he had had more parts replaced and repaired than an old Penn 704Z reel, Don still fished the beach, often sitting on his trademark white bucket that served as a seat, greeting everyone he met like an old friend.
In September 2010, Don and Marian moved from their West Tisbury home to a retirement community in Roosevelt, Georgia, to be closer to children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and far away from New England winters.
From 1984 to 1991, Don served on the Derby committee and helped lead the Derby’s transition from a Chamber of Commerce event to an independent nonprofit.
He was chairman from 1989 to 1991. It was no easy job. Some members thought the best way to make a point was to repeat the same point, each time louder. Don would not have it. He would go around the room and give each member an opportunity to speak ensuring that the quieter members had an opportunity to participate.
Don was used to leadership. A Marine sergeant during World War II, he served on islands that have become footnotes to history — Midway, Kwajalein, and the Marshals. “I made the grand tour with the Marine Corps. I was never wounded, but I got malaria,” Don said in a former interview. “From one island to another, that’s something for a boy born in Cincinnati.”
The Vineyard, a place where Marian had family connections, seemed like a good place to retire.
Don was born on September 10, 1923. He attended and played football, basketball and baseball and ran track at Cincinnati’s North College Hill High School before joining the Marines. He later coached high school and scouted for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds. He joined Wright State in 1965 as the director of financial aid.
He went to the university president with the idea of starting an athletic program at what was then a tiny campus extension of another university, his step son Steve Fletcher recalled. “He went from no money, no facilities, no interest, to building a program that the year after his retirement saw the basketball team win the NCAA Division II National Championship and later make several appearances in the NCAA National Tournament. Today hundreds of student athletes compete in seven men’s and eight women’s sports.”
During his tenure, WSU started 14 sports, including five for women. Don Mohr was the first inductee into the WSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985.
“Wright State certainly has lost one of its pioneers and someone we all owe a great deal of debt,” WSU Director of Athletics Bob Grant said. “His accomplishments and forethought has enabled us to become what we are today. While there have only three directors of athletics in Wright State history, he was the first. He will be sorely missed.”
He is survived by his loving wife, Marian, as well as his two brothers, Bob and Jack Mohr. He was the loving father of Pat Hilgeman, Donna Mohr, Kathy Lattimer, Terry Mohr, Danny Mohr, Linda Leland, and Steve Fletcher. He will be missed by his 13 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to Embracing Hospice or Wright State University Athletic Department. The Roswell Funeral Home in Roswell, Georgia, has been entrusted with the arrangements.