Donald Earl Smethers
March 1, 1939 – December 27, 2020
Don was born in Portland, Oregon and passed away at Kaiser hospital where his wonderful life came to a peaceful finish. Recent battles with throat & neck cancers were aggressively treated to the point of remission. However, an ascending aortic arch aneurysm finally prevailed.
Don lived his life fully and passed on his own terms. We said goodbye to an extraordinary man who lived an amazing life of honesty, dedication, loyalty, faith, courage & helping others and above all, loving his family first.
Don’s childhood stomping grounds were the St Johns and N. Portland neighborhoods where he often toured the area with his bicycle buddies. He recalled times spent as an early adolescent touring the devastation left behind when Vanport neighborhood was flooded in 1948. The resulting Victory Blvd area would eventually be developed into road race and drag racing facility which would later become Don’s “adult playground” for several decades throughout the rest of his life.
Don graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School in 1956 then attended college at Portland State. He and his high school buddy joined the army in 1957 where they served 2 years active duty at Fort Ord followed by 2 years active reserve back in Portland.
Don had experienced first-hand the post-war automobile boom prior to the 1950-60’s. Throughout high school he always had an interest in owning and building “sports cars”. A colleague Gary Wright from Tektronix purchased a Porsche 911 in 1966 and Don joined the racing team. The next year Don and Brenda travelled to the national road racing runoffs in Daytona, Florida to crew for the 911 Team. In 1968 another friend Chuck Clemens knew of a twin to his own car, a 1960 Porsche 356 Roadster. Both drivers raced the two matching Roadsters through 1972 when Don won his first Championships in Improved Production & Sports Racing classes.
Don applied his electronics expertise to his racing hobby by developing a revolutionary new lap timing system. It was customary for timing/scoring crews to use traditional swept-hand stop watches to simultaneously time 2-4 drivers a piece. Don designed a “Master” clock with 10 “Client” boxes which eliminated complexity and enhanced accuracy.
In the decades as hobbyist car owner/Team Principal with FASTCO Racing (“father and son team”), the drivers & crew earned over 40 club racing Championships competing on tracks throughout the Northwest & Canada. Don owned & race-prepared a total of 5 Porsche 911’s between 1974 to 2002. In 1990 Don & son Bob developed a bare VW Golf chassis into a class winning competitor earning 14 Championships. Other exotic cars which Don owned throughout the years included 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder, 1969 Brabham BT21, 1966 McLaren MK 1B CAN-AM, 1981 TIGA CSR National Champion and 1983 TIGA Sports 2000.
As time progressed, Don enjoyed his continued participation with road racing clubs and voluntarily served as President, Race Chairman, Executive Board Representative, Timing/Scoring Chief, Webmaster, Treasurer and Steward/Deputy Executive Steward. Don also served as System Operator, Webmaster and Bookkeeper for the private water district serving 80 homes in their neighborhood.
Don & Sonjia were enthusiastic power boat owners and volunteered to host various activities at Portland Yacht Club. Their last yacht was a beautiful 44’ Ocean Alexander. Don was intrigued with advanced radar and satellite navigation systems – truly a tech nerd his entire life!