2014-08-07 / Obituaries

Donald William Pitts

Born in Madison, S.D. on April 15, 1928, Don William Pitts showed early signs of his independent nature when he traveled alone on the train from his birthplace to join his parents in California at the age of 13.

He passed away on July 31,

2014 in Fresno. He was 86.

Pitts was a pre-med major at UCLA, then joined the U.S. Army as a paratrooper, only to be drawn by his love of the mountains to obtain a degree in logging engineering from Oregon State. He served three seasons as a smoke jumper and worked as a forester before attending Boalt Law School at UC Berkeley to start a career in law.

Don worked in the district attorney’s office in Porterville and then in Fresno, established a private practice, found time be a scoutmaster and to raise four children, all before being appointed the Federal Magistrate Judge for Yosemite National Park in 1975. Soon after becoming a judge, he married Kay Keim Tolladay. Kay was the love of Don’s life, and he the love of hers.

In his 18 years on the federal bench, “the Judge” was known for his skepticism for the well-fashioned fabrication, for his kindness to court neophytes and for his “Bailiff”—a 160 pound Rottweiler who often accompanied him to court. In addition to his love for Kay and his family, hiking, skiing and Yosemite National Park, one of Don's great joys in life was performing weddings.

During his years in Yosemite, Don established the cross-country skiing division of the Yosemite Winter Club. Generations of cross-country skiers finished an Ostrander Hut or trans-Sierra ski trip in Don and Kay’s wine-barrel hot tub.

Because he was a true “mountain man,” even retirement could not persuade Don to leave his beloved Yosemite. Add that to his natural hospitality and Don’s final career choice seemed obvious. He and Kay built a bed-and-breakfast business, the Yosemite Peregrine, which they successfully ran from 1994 until 2011.

Don is survived by his beloved wife, Kay Tolladay Pitts, his children Donald P. Pitts and wife Roberta Jue of Petaluma, Linda Tolladay and husband Mark Graves of Clovis, Michaela Pitts of Ukiah, Laura Tolladay of Roseville, Anne Acuna of San Francisco, Eric Tolladay and wife Teri Davis-Tolladay of Valley Village, Robert Pitts and wife Nickol of Ahwahnee, 12 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother, Dale Pitts of Yucaipa and sister MaryAnn Block of Evansville, Ind.

Don’s celebration of life will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 8, 2014, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, 2672 E. Alluvial.

Remembrances can be made to KVPT (Valley Public Television), Restore Hetch-Hetchy or the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno.

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Love you Don! Love the entire

Love you Don! Love the entire family. Thanks for sharing so much with us over the years. The best neighbors ever. You will be remembered fondly.

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