Donald “Don” Schyberg
Donald “Don” Schyberg, age 86, passed away peacefully at home in Maitland, FL in the loving company of his family. Don was born April 13th, 1931 in Bellmore, Long Island, NY the son of Norwegian immigrant, William Schyberg, and his American mother, Fern Albertson, of Long Island. He grew up in the rural Adirondack community of Porter Corners near Saratoga Springs, New York. Much of his early youth was spent working with his father and brothers cutting wood for sale to the local timber industry. Like many high school boys during WWII Don left school to do men’s work, spending his teenage years in the Adirondack woods driving teams of horses and dragging logs while his older brothers, William Schyberg (now deceased) of Duluth, MN and Jim Schyberg of Corinth, NY (now deceased) were off to the war.
During the Korean War, both Don and his younger brother, Mike Schyberg (now deceased), enlisted in the US Marine Corps where Don became a Lance Corporal and Squad Leader in the 1st Marine Division. Don served in frontline combat operations against the combined North Korean and Chinese army(s) for 12 months during the brutal winter of 1951-52. Don would later write about his wartime experiences in his memoir, “Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day”, (a saying his mother used to describe him) which was professionally and patiently edited by his “memoir champion”, Joyce Bowden, and self-published in 2005, recounting events from many months of continuous close combat with enemy forces. Don never lost sight of his patriotism and would refer to his time in Korea as “the greatest experience of my life.”
After his wartime service, Don married Joan Burton of Porter Corners, NY. He faced a tough decision to either re-enlist in the Marines where he was offered a substantial promotion, or return to civilian life. He chose to take a factory job with International Paper Company in Corinth, New York, where he would work for the next decade. During this time he also played semi-pro baseball in Saratoga Springs, NY where he was considered a heavy hitter but Don, (always humble and modest) put it honestly, “I just lacked the fielding skills to play ball on a professional level”.
While working at International Paper Company, Don met his future wife, ReJean “Jean” LaRocque and they were married in 1956. A self-taught carpenter, electrician and plumber, Don and his brother, Jim, constructed two substantial residences containing many ultra modern amenities for their families, almost entirely with their own hands. This construction feat was the talk of the town as the two families proudly moved into their new homes in 1958 and 1959.
Leaving his life as a factory worker Don embarked on a lifelong career as a businessman and entrepreneur; first establishing a modern trucking and refuse hauling service in Potsdam and Canton, in upstate New York with his great friend and brother-in-law, Howard Pitkin. After selling this successful company, Don and Jean moved their family to Central FL in 1965 where Don lived the remaining 50+ years of his life. He worked in the construction industry during the boom of the 1960s. By 1969, Don and Jean decided to veer in a new direction, retail clothing, and they opened and managed, “Jean’s Dresses and Sportswear” in the Conway Shopping Center and a second store in the original Colonial Plaza.
In 1975, Don married Mary Lou Franklin, an Orlando native. The couple went on to operate retail clothing stores in Orlando and, for a short time, in Buffalo, NY. While in Buffalo, Don befriended the originator of Buffalo Chicken Wings and left Buffalo with a recipe in his back pocket. For several years, family and friends were treated to “Papa Don’s Wing Dings” until he retired his grill in 2008.
In 1984-1989, Don and his youngest son, Dave, opened and managed the original Inland Ocean Surf Shop in Orlando. When the shop sold, Don assisted Mary Lou in her Orlando real estate firm while also building a successful landscaping business.
Don was a long time member of the Citrus Club of Orlando where he developed many dear friendships. It was at the “Club” that he met his future companion and love of his life, Joyce Bowden, of Orlando, FL. The couple was inseparable until her death in April 2017.
During their time together, Dad joined Joyce as a member of the First United Methodist Church of Orlando. Don enjoyed an abundance of fellowship with new friends in both the First Men’s Group and the New Class. He and Joyce shared their altruistic passion to help others in need such as feeding homeless families as part of the Coalition for the Homeless program.
Don often said “Once a Marine, Always a Marine” and lived this adage for many years assisting with greeting parties for returning at Orlando International Airport, sending care packages to wounded warriors at the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany and also receiving several awards of appreciation from the local Marine Corp for his years of service in their Toys for Tots project in Orlando. Don also served as Chaplain of the 1st Marine Division Association Central FL Chapter and belonged to the Korean War Veterans Association, Mid Fla Chapter 173. In 2015, Don’s service was recognized by an invitation to join a select group of fellow war veterans for an Honor Flight trip to Washington, DC , attended by his dear friend, Army Lieutenant Colonel, (Ret) Nick Guerra, of Orlando. They attended ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery and the Korean War Memorial.
Don Schyberg is survived by his sons and daughter: Robert (Diane) Schyberg of Boothbay Harbor, ME and New Smyrna Beach, FL; Cynthia (Schyberg/Niemi) Geltz of Maitland, FL; Kim (Carol) Schyberg of Porter Corners, NY; and David Schyberg of Maitland, FL. Grandchildren Robert (Melissa) Schyberg, Jr of Westchester Co, New York; Chelsea Niemi of Winter Park, FL; Travis (Graham) Niemi of Winter Park, FL; Dustin Schyberg of Deltona, FL; Tyler, Savannah, and Nikki Schyberg, of Maitland, FL; Kim Schyberg, Jr. of, Glens Falls, NY; and Kristi (Toby) Middlebrook of Porter Corners, NY; 8 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephew.
Memorial service and reception in Don’s honor will be held on Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 2pm at the First United Methodist Church of Orlando, 142 East Jackson Street, Orlando, FL 32801
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a memorial donation in Don Schyberg’s name to: Wounded Warrior Project®. Online donation: woundedwarriorproject.org