Donald Chesbrough Bell, Jr., 85, passed away January 31, 2021, surrounded by family at his home on the Broad River outside Rutherfordton, N.C.
Donald was born in Cleveland, OH on March 11, 1935, the son of the late Dr. Donald C. Bell, Sr. and Kathryn Densmore Miller Bell. He spent his childhood in Ojai, CA and attended the Thacher School in Ojai, Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he played water polo, and later earned an MA in education from Western Carolina University. He served as an artilleryman in the US Marine Corps prior to travelling around the world, a journey during which, among other adventures, he worked on a kibbutz in Israel and shared a ship in the South Pacific with the Queen of Tonga and played chess with her secretary. He returned to the USA and in 1962 married Ruth Dickerson of Rutherfordton, whom he had met through family in San Francisco. They soon after bought a dilapidated farmhouse outside Rutherfordton and spent the next 40 years making it into a beloved home for their family.
Donald taught over 25 years in the Rutherford County Schools, at East High School, New Hope Junior High, and for the most part in the 5th grade at Rutherfordton Elementary. He will be remembered for reading children’s classics out loud, mini-Olympics, micro-economies, theater productions, and walking field trips all over Rutherfordton. He also drove a school bus, raised cattle, and for many years managed the Dickerson family farm.
Donald loved the outdoors and physical activity. He was a lifelong swimmer and tennis player and enjoyed hiking, horseback riding, sailing, and bicycling. He also believed in community involvement. He participated in community theater, built houses with Habitat for Humanity, and could often be seen picking up trash along the roadside, even on a USGS satellite map picture of Gray’s Road. He was a lover of books, learning, music, animals, gatherings of friends, desserts of all kinds, and a good laugh.
His children will always be grateful to him for faithfully attending their mother Ruth through many years of a long illness. After Ruth’s death in 2003, Donald married Jane Alexander, with whom he was able to once again pursue his great love of travel, hiking across England, sailing canals in France, and rafting the Grand Canyon, among other adventures.
Donald is survived by his loving wife Jane Alexander Bell of the home; sister Ellen Bell Nachtrieb of Portola Valley, CA; children Alexander Bell and wife Jane C. Bell, Dr. Keturah Bell and husband Lee Pierce, all of Rutherfordton, Sarah Bell Earley and husband Tony Earley of Nashville, TN; grandchildren Katie and Zander Bell, Clara and Ruthie Earley, and Owen, Ella, and Anderson Pierce; extended family, many lifelong friends, and beloved pets Mardy, Josie and Jake.
Many thanks to Hospice and the wonderful home health workers who made it possible for Donald to remain in the home he so loved to the end. The family can be reached at 671 Gray’s Road, Rutherfordton.
A memorial service will be planned in the future. Crowe’s Mortuary is assisting the family. Memorials may be made to Rutherford County Habitat for Humanity, Hospice of the Carolina Foothills, The Community Pet Center, or Norris Public Library. You might also, in his honor, take a hike with friends, pick up the trash in your neighborhood, or read a book to someone you love!