The Man, The Myth, The Local Legend Dr. Don
don Huntington was a man who loved everyone and had no enemies. He didn’t believe in having ill feelings toward others. I never imagined the world without his presence–it still doesn’t feel like reality. Don was ready to share a wise word or story of encouragement at any moment. As editor in chief and founder of 110° Magazine, Don spent 17 years showcasing his gift as a writer and storyteller while sharing the heartwarming, challenging, and miraculous stories of the residents of East County. As publisher of 110° Magazine, I worked alongside Don until he retired in 2019. He was not only my 110° partner, but he was also my dear friend.
He was one person who I know would do anything for me and, for that matter, anything for anyone. He would do it lovingly, patiently, and without asking questions, regardless of any deterrents, and do it with his whole heart–that was just how Don Huntington lived his life. For some of us, he was an angel on earth; for me, he was a business partner who had zero business sense but a talent for writing and telling stories in his own unique way that captured my attention and that of the local community. Our close business partnership and friendship felt more like family at times. We had family style quarrels during business meetings, but we never stopped appreciating and caring for one another. We made a great team, and together we built a great team.
When we had a problem, he would say, “Is this a teachable moment?”
He taught me the business, along with his wife Rae. When Don and I had disagreements, it was Rae who balanced things out in her quiet but confident ways. She was Don’s rock and also supported the magazine in the same way.
When we first met, Don talked me into buying a magazine I knew nothing about, and it was a simple line, “Let’s have fun!” Boy did we have fun. Not necessarily in the beginning (that was a struggle), but once we were partners, there was no turning back for either of us. He introduced me to his best sales representative, Caroline Robertson, and we set out to revive 110° Magazine and bring the community together by sharing stories and happenings while gaining more and more advertisers. Caroline was a force of nature because she, like us, loved the magazine. She is still working with us to this day. We built an incredible team that continues to feel like family.
Don showed me the importance of joining the community by giving back through organizations like Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, and nonprofits such as A Place of Learning. He was an ideal Rotarian and even won a few well-deserved awards.
There were times when we both exclaimed to each other how “we” had the best jobs ever. Don even stated he would do this job of writing for free if he could. I felt he had the best job, and he had the talent, the wisdom, and the best perspective.
When we had a problem, he would say, “Is this a teachable moment?” which wasn’t always the case for me; however, we would both then hold up our hands in the air, and he would say what was on his heart then give it to God and let it go. That gave me a feeling of peace.
“He told me that in all the years of publishing the 110 Magazine, if we had only touched one life, and that was her life, then it was all worth it. I know for a fact Don touched more than one life with his words.”
“Let us be a blessing to them.”
Don was known as the hugginator, and he was also the first person to fetch some soup and deliver it to anyone who was sick. It was such a sweet act of kindness especially because he truly enjoyed doing it. He enjoyed picking people up or taking them to the airport. He didn’t care what time of day or night, he wasn’t worried about how much sleep he would get, or not get; gas or traffic was irrelevant to him. He told me the time spent with another person during that drive was always worth it.
His love for his family, his grandson, his kids, and his wife was enormous. One of his favorite stories was how when Rae and Don married, they both decided that moving forward Rae would make all the easy decisions, and Don would make all the difficult ones. He said it worked out just fine because, until that point, he’d never had to make one decision. That story made me smile, no matter how many times he told it.
He was a healer in many ways. His hugs were healing, his presence was healing, but his way with words and ghost writing someone’s life journey was something I never got tired of experiencing. Many times, the person he was writing for would leave in amazement of how he captured the essence of their story, and sometimes they were brought to tears because it touched their heart.
There is one story Don shared with me that I will never forget. He told me someone he knew confided in him one day. She approached him and thanked him for his back page. Apparently, she was feeling so low one day, she had considered taking her own life. She was at the end of her rope. She came across Don’s famous back page, and his words were so comforting to her, she realized that her life was a blessing. She told him he really made a difference but to please keep her identity private, as she would never want anyone to know how deeply she was struggling. He told me that in all the years of publishing the 110° Magazine, if we had only touched one life, and that was her life, then it was all worth it. I know for a fact Don touched more than one life with his words.
Every time we were headed to meet with someone to talk about publishing their story, he would pray before we went into the meeting, “Let us be a blessing to them.” That was always his intention.
Don was a huge blessing in my life. He was like a father figure to me, a work husband at times, a friend, and family. His lack of business sense sometimes drove me nuts; however, he always trusted me handling the business end. When he retired from the magazine, I offered to throw him a huge party. He didn’t want that. Regardless of what was going on between us, I knew he loved me, and I loved him. Our partnership brought us both personal growth and joy.
He wrote a book, Put Your Whole Self In. The title is based on one of his favorite speeches he would often share. He would make everyone in the room stand up, and he would ask them to sing this song and participate with him. “You put your right arm in, you put your right arm out ... you put your whole self in, you put your whole self out, you put your whole self in, and you shake it all about, you do the hokey pokey, and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about!”
Normally, I would send my thoughts to Don, and he would write an article that made me sound like a professional writer. He would then find a random quote to tie it all together.
Since he’s not here, I’m on my own this time to find a quote.
Here it is…
“That it will never come again, is what makes life so sweet.” –Emily Dickinson
Blessings on ya, Don!