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Welcome to the memorial page for

Donald Edwin Garrison

February 6, 1927 ~ March 22, 2017 (age 90)


Devoted husband, loving father, and cheesecake baker extraordinaire, Donald Edwin Garrison left this world on March 22, 2017. Born in Esopus, NY on Feb. 6, 1927 to Mervin Garrison and Myrtle Ronk, Donald spent his first decade across the road from childhood friend, Cole Palen, who later founded the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. A member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Poughkeepsie Glee Club, and high school track team, Donald was a wholehearted steward of Life. Whether running, biking, swimming, or dancing, he was rarely still, earning the nickname "Gig" and known for making legendary high dives from the rocks of Esopus Creek. Donald had planned to attend the University of Paris, but the German occupation changed those plans, so he enlisted in the Army and spent 14 months in the European Theatre, ending up finally at Dachau concentration camp during its liberation in 1945.

After the war, Donald reconnected with childhood friend Cole Palen, piloting the Curtiss Jenny and other WWI aircraft while Cole snapped photos; these were some of his happiest memories. In 1955, he married Catharine DuBois Schwartz, his beloved soulmate of 61 years. They honeymooned in Havana, Cuba, home to the most celebrated nightclub in the western hemisphere, The Copacabana.

Other fond memories were of his parents' Depression Era ice cream shop, the five-cent cone, and his banana split breakfasts. The success of the ice cream shop allowed them to purchase property on Schroon Lake where they summered many years at the Three Bears Lodge.

It wasn't until his 50s that he discovered a love for baking. Within a few years, Don and Cathy started "Woody's Cheesecake," named after their dachshund. By maintaining their "one-cake-at-a-time" mission, the product sold itself—with the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Ernest Borgnine, Dom DeLuise, and countless chefs hailing it as the best cheesecake they'd ever eaten. Donald quickly earned a reputation for his amiability and honesty; and, of course, for his best four-footed friend, Woody, who accompanied him on his delivery routes throughout several states.

In addition to enthusiasm for baking, books, and big band music, Donald adored animals. He often told his children, "Animals are more trustworthy than people-- an animal will never betray you." As a boy, he raised dogs, chickens, geese, rabbits, and goats. As an adult, he raised over 100 heifers and always had a dog at his side, on his lap, or at the dining room table. His dachshunds particularly enjoyed Donald's breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast.

Donald will be most remembered, not only for his commitment to Catharine and his pets, but for his remarkable sense of humor. It was what attracted his wife in the first place, why he was often the life of the party, and the quality that was enjoyed by anyone in his company, especially his family.

He is survived by his wife Catharine, four of his five children, Rachel, Lucy, James, and Johanna, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. 


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