On December 28, 2021, Donald R. Crist, Sr. passed into the loving arms of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He passed peacefully at home surrounded by family. Don was born on January 7, 1934, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to the late Earl and Vierra (Schubert) Crist and was raised in Pensacola, Florida. Growing up on a bayou in Pensacola, he and his two older brothers, Junior and Dick, developed a love of fishing, free diving, boating and crabbing on his dad’s fishing boat. That interest carried over to his time living in Gainesville where he and one of his good buddies fished the many lakes and rivers in the area.
Don graduated from the University of Florida in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. After graduation, he moved back to Pensacola where he worked for a short time in an independent pharmacy before returning to Gainesville where he continued his work as a pharmacist. At this time in Gainesville, he and his first wife, Carolyn, had two sons, Don, Jr. and Rick. After working for a time in the pharmacy, he accepted a job as a representative for Upjohn Pharmaceuticals, traveling his territory for several years from the east coast of Florida to the west coast and every small town in between. During this time, Don built friendships with the pharmacists and doctors whom he met and maintained some of these friendships to this day.
Later, he married Joann, and in 1967, they moved to Crystal River where they raised three children, Chuck, Donna Gail and Dan. It was in Crystal River that he opened Don’s Pharmacy on Highway 19. After moving his pharmacy location several times in Crystal River, he settled into the Executive Center on Highway 44 where he continued to serve his customers until he retired in 2014. Many of his customers fondly called him “Doctor Don” as he saw to their needs not only during working hours but also on weekends and often through the night, meeting customers at the store for emergency needs. For forty-eight years, he served his community as an independent pharmacist, and his only regret upon retiring was that he would miss his loyal customers who had become his “family of friends.”
When he moved to Crystal River, he spent much of his free time fishing and scuba diving in the pristine waters of the local rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. Don was quite a sports enthusiast, participating in many sports throughout his life. In his late teens, he enjoyed roller skating which eventually led to an invitation to a regional competition in Atlanta for couples dancing on skates. He was a long-time member of a local bowling league and a member of a local hunt club. He loved playing tennis and was an avid golfer with a seven handicap. Don also earned his pilot’s license, taking flying lessons locally from his friend and instructor, Jim Eyster. Don loved flying and would sometimes take his plane up for a quick flight before work just to watch the sunrise.
Don was active in his community as a member of the Crystal River Lions Club where he eventually served as president. He was a charter member of the Seven Rivers Golf Club and was a founding member of the Crystal River Yacht Club. He always loved boating on Crystal River and was especially happy when he could take guests on a river outing to show our beautiful Nature Coast. He attended Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church and also invested his time in his children’s sports activities and umpired for Little League. A man of few words and a big heart, he served this community with generous donations and gave to those who might otherwise go without.
On June 13, 2000, Don survived a direct lightning strike. After almost two months in Shands Hospital and in rehab, he returned home to face a long, hard-fought battle of rehabilitation with years of physical, speech and occupational therapy. Although he never fully recovered from these injuries, he was blessed by his pharmacist friends who kept his pharmacy operating both during his rehabilitation and through the years at the times when he was unable to work.
Shortly after the lightning strike, Don married Beverly, and his family expanded to include her two children, Aimee Bliss (Rick) Kelso (deceased) of Homosassa, Florida, and Travis Patrick (Amelia) Crane of Bryceville, Florida, and their families. Don immediately became “Grandpa Don” to Beverly’s grandchildren, Katelyn and Averie Kelso and Timothy, Peter and Samuel Crane. Their relationship, love, and support have been a blessing to all the family. In addition, Beverly’s extended family members who grew to love Don include a brother, Huey (Annie) Young of Tallahassee, Florida, a sister, Phyllis (Bill) Poirier of Riverview, Florida, and many nieces and nephews.
Don and Beverly enjoyed traveling the United States, from the Great Smoky Mountains in the East to the many national parks in the West where they would often meet old friends from Crystal River. One of their favorite vacations would definitely be their Alaskan cruise when they enjoyed the magnificent glaciers and abundant wildlife. Back at home, they attended as many of their grandchildren’s sporting events as possible, including volleyball, basketball, baseball, softball and soccer. They often followed the teams to games and tournaments in places such as Jacksonville, Ormond Beach and Fort Myers to show their support with sometimes raucous cheering, loving every minute–win or lose.
Don is survived by his wife, Beverly Crane-Crist; brother Dick Crist of Pensacola, Florida; sister Gayle (Ken) Murphy of Starke, Florida; son Donald R. (Lori) Crist, Jr. and grandchildren Jennifer, Donald “Trey” R. Crist, III and Jonathan of St. Augustine, Florida; son Rick (Galin) Crist and grandchildren Ryan, Rhett, Savannah and Carson of Ormond Beach, Florida; son Chuck (Kelli) Crist and grandchildren Dillon, Chloe and Phoebe of St. Augustine, Florida; daughter Donna Strickland and grandchildren Leroy and Sarah of Homosassa, Florida; and son Daniel (Tracy) Crist and grandchildren Logan and Emori of Plant City, Florida. He has fifteen great-grandchildren, with another soon to arrive, and many nieces and nephews.
Don is preceded in death by both his oldest brother Earl Crist, Jr. and sister-in-law, Fran, of Hawley, Pennsylvania; his sister-in-law Jean Crist of Pensacola, Florida; and extended family members daughter Aimee Bliss Crane Kelso, grandson Brody Kelso and grandson Noah Crane.
There will be a celebration of life service on Saturday, January 29, 2022, at Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto. Friends are welcome for visitation with the family from 10:00 am to 11:00 am with the memorial service immediately following. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Don’s name may be made to HPH Hospice or the charity of your choice.