Donald Elden Koten, 91, died peacefully at home with his beloved wife Margo by his side on October 9, 2021. Don was born in Normal, Illinois to the late Irvin and Dora Koten. From a young age he was kind and intelligent with a playful sense of humor. Those qualities always remained.
Don is survived by his wife of 61 years, Margo Koten; his grateful children, Kathy Koten Sheehan (Kevin), and Susan Koten Sofka (Jeff); and his four adored grandsons, Michael Donald Sofka, Jack Sofka, Will Sofka and Dillon Sheehan.
He grew up in Naperville, IL, and appreciated his midwestern roots. Upon graduation from North Central College, Don headed to Washington, DC to work as an electronic scientist at the Naval Research Lab. He was later drafted into the Army and deployed to Aberdeen Proving Ground as the System Improvement Engineer on the EDVAC Computer.
Don had a deep love of forests and forestry, sparked by time spent at his family summer home on Lake Julia in Northern Wisconsin – a place he returned regularly for 75 years. That passion led him to Oregon where he received a degree in forest engineering and worked for the US National Forest Service. In 1961, Don and Margo moved to Syracuse where he earned a PhD from SUNY's College of Environmental Science and Forestry. He rose to full Professor and his teaching focused on forest management. He particularly enjoyed mentoring graduate students. He had substantial and official involvement in the International Union of Forestry Organizations. He led the development of the first comprehensive plan for New York's Alleghany State Park. He was a long-time member of The Society of American Foresters.
Don will be remembered for his commitment to his community through his faithful membership at University United Methodist Church, and his board service and volunteer work, including Habitat for Humanity, The Learning Place, Cooperative Extension, IRP, and AARP Tax-Aide.
He was a skilled carpenter, including building additions to his homes, and toys and furniture for his daughters and grandsons. He loved international travel, trains, poker games, and time with his friends.
We will miss his unfailingly thoughtful presence to everyone he met, and his keen sense of humor.
A funeral service will take place on Saturday, November 20 at 1:30 p.m. at University United Methodist Church, 1085 East Genesee Street, Syracuse. A reception will follow. Contributions in Don's memory may be made to University United Methodist Church Community Outreach Program, Habitat for Humanity or a philanthropy of one's choice.