Don Anderson

I'm very sad to report that we have lost another great storm chaser. Yesterday, (11/1/05) at around 11:00 a.m., Don Anderson passed away at his home in Topeka, Kansas after a long illness.

Some of you might know Don from either the Douglas County Advanced Storm Spotter seminar in the spring in Lawrence, or from the Kansas Chaser Gatherings in the fall. (He always looked forward to both events.) He also used to post on Stormtrack, and went by the name, "Hotwheels".

Don was an extraordinary man. Although he was a paraplegic and suffered from an illness that sometimes left him incapacitated, he chased every chance he could. His most notable chase was the Hallem, Nebraska tornado of 2004.

I've known Don for 5 years and I was always amazed by his attitude toward life. The only thing that got him down was when he was too weak to chase. When we did get to chase together, he didn't care if we got a tornado or if we busted. He just loved to be out there. Sometimes I would be standing near his car watching and filming whatever was in front of us, and I would turn to look at him and he would be smiling. I would also see him sticking his head out of his car to feel the wind on his face.

I'm so lucky I got to chase twice with him this year. Although we busted both times, we had a blast; and I will carry those memories with me forever.

I do not have the information on Don's funeral yet. I will post his obituary as soon as I get it. (I will also post some pictures.)

I am personally devastated by Don's passing. He was truly a "Gentleman" in every sense of the word, and one of the greatest friends I've ever had.

Rest in peace Don.

Shawna Helt
Kansas City, MO
I never got the chance to meet Don, but it sounds like he was a remarkable gentleman. May he chase all the storms in heaven and look down upon us with a smile.

Rest in Peace...
This is quite a shock. I had the opportunity to meet Don a couple of times over the last year. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of him is the smile that was always on his face. At the chaser party last year I had the opportunity to have a good conversation with him and I found it truly remarkable that even with all the adversity that he was going through. He always had that smile on his face and it was easy to see the intense passion that he had for chasing.

You will be missed Don. Rest In Peace My Friend.

I'm very sad to hear this too. I first met Don three or four years back at advanced skywarn training in Lawrence, and was really impressed with his bright outlook and his strong determination to learn more about weather ... you're right, Shawna ... Don was out there chasing every chance he got! ... I've since enjoyed several local chaser gatherings with him, where he was always eager to see more video and enjoy hanging out together. He was so proud (and rightly so) of his Hallam footage - he did a terrific job on that storm.

Don was truly a kindred spirit who will be sadly missed.
Here are a couple of photos of Don at chaser gatherings that Shawna asked me to post for her - - -


While I never got to meet him, from what others say, he was one heck of a guy. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.
I am deeply saddened and shocked by Don's passing. Don had an unspeakable passion for just the experience of the chase, let alone what the atmosphere had to offer in its most convective states. I always looked forward to seeing Don at our annual Kansas chaser get togethers because I knew he would look forward to seeing all of us with such anticipation. It's the storms and the passion of the chase that get us together, but the human touch... all of us collectively sharing our experiences with one another... that's what it's about. Don loved this more than anything. Meeting and being with other people just like him. A storm chaser. Don also loved conversing with other storm chasers online, whether it be in forums or the occasional visit in the IRC #stormchase room.

Rest in peace Don, you will be missed dearly.

Mike U
Well, I just got a phone call from Mike Umschied with the news about Don. And it's still a tad surreal.

Mike and I were just discussing how gatherings would not be the same without his presence. I met Don for the first time at a chase party in 2001, and he and I ended up retreating to a corner of the party and drooling over my copy of David Hoadley's Storm Chase Manual. He'd never seen it before, and when I handed it to him, it was like handing a little boy a copy of a limited edition comic book.

He finally made it down to the StormTrack Picnic in 2004. Something he had tried to do for so long. He enjoyed nothing more than being surrounded by people with passions much like his own. His energy and happiness was contagious, and was always welcoming.

He was quick to tell you he was proud of you, and always encourage you. Very much like a father figure to myself. And will be missed as one.

To his family and close friends, our prayers.
Here are a few pics of my own of Don or included Don... this from the 2003 KS chaser get together:

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(from L to R.. Jon Davies, Don, "KP" Kevin Polston, Shawna, Rick Schmidt)

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Mike U
My deepest sympathies to Don's friends and family. His zest for chasing is quite evident in the stories told by those who knew him.

Wow! I've been sitting here crying my eyes out reading all the sweet remarks that have been posted here for Don. He really liked and deeply admired everyone here on Stormtrack and throughout the chasing community, and I'm sure he appreciates all of your kind words.

Here is Don's obituray that was posted on the Topeka Capital-Journal website this morning:

OBITUARY: Donavon Wayne Anderson

Donavon Wayne Anderson, 37, died Tues., Nov. 1, 2005 at his Tecumseh home. He was born June 28, 1968 at Topeka the son of Edward Wayne and JoAnn Floy (Stephens) Anderson.

He was a graduate of Shawnee Heights High School and DeVry Institute of Technology. Donavon was a audio-visual-electronics technician at Smith Audio Visual. He was a member of the Northeast Kansas Astronomy Association and International Harvestor Collectors, National and State Chapter # 3. Donavon was also an avid storm chaser.

Surviving are his parents: Edward W. and JoAnn F. Anderson of the home; a sister and brother-in-law: Brenda and Gary Hogan of Hutchinson; paternal grandmother: Ida V. Anderson of Auburn; niece: Meara Hogan of Hutchinson; 6 aunts; 6 uncles; and many cousins.

Funeral services will be at 10:00 a.m., Sat., Nov. 5, 2005 at Penwell-Gabel Parker-Price Chapel, 245 NW Independence. Interment will be in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery, Big Springs. Donavon will lie in state after 3:00 p.m. Friday at the funeral chapel where the family will receive friends from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Friday.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, 1315 SW Arrowhead Road, Topeka, KS 66604.

To leave a special message for the family online, visit
Originally posted by Jason_Politte
My deepest sympathies to Don's friends and family. His zest for chasing is quite evident in the stories told by those who knew him.


What Jason said is also the sum of what I can say. I had heard of Don only occasionally and had never met him - but my heart goes out to his family and all in our community who were close to him at this sad time. To lose someone so enthralled with chasing is so tragic.

I just wanted to let everyone know that last night at Don’s visitation, I gave Don’s Dad a print out of the messages left here on ST, and today at the funeral he said the family read them and were very appreciative and it helped them out a lot. (He had a big smile on his face when he told me this.)

His funeral was very nice, (and for all of you KU people out there,) he was buried in his KU sweatshirt holding his KU ball cap.

Classic Don....

Shawna Helt