In Memory of




Obituary for Donald Clarence Milligan

Donald Clarence Milligan was born on April 5, 1933, in Phillip, South Dakota. He passed away on December 23, 2020, in Salem, Oregon. He was the son of Bert and Ruth Milligan. His sister Iris once described him as “the cutest baby she had ever seen.”

Don lived a full life. He was raised near Silverton on a farm. He often spoke about the daily responsibilities he had taking care of the animals and working alongside his parents and siblings. He continued to have a strong work ethic his entire life and expected others to always strive to do their best.

Don served four years of active duty in the U.S. Navy on the destroyer USS Radford and on the destroyer tender USS Bryce Canyon during the Korean conflict. He then served as an Oregon State weighmaster in Pendleton and then Medford from 1957-1965. Don began his civilian fire service career in 1958, serving first in the city of Central Point as a volunteer and then as assistant chief. He also served with the Ashland Fire Department as the assistant chief/fire marshal. In 1966 Don was hired as fire chief for the City of Monmouth. There he played a pivotal role in unifying the local fire districts into what is now Polk County Fire District No. 1 in 1985. He served as chief of that department until his retirement in 1988. Don began and developed the careers of dozens of men and women in the fire service, something he was very proud of and deserves much credit for.

Don also served for twenty years in a reserve capacity with the U.S. Navy. He was an adjunct instructor at Chemeketa Community College and was a life member of the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association. In addition, Don was a board member of the OFCA, and past state president and life member of the Oregon Fire Instructors Association.

After his retirement in 1988, Don continued to work in consulting services for Emergency Services Consulting International in the areas of consolidating, strategic planning, and fire station location analysis. He retired as a senior associate for ESCI in 2010. Don also served as registrar for the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association conferences and the Northwest Leadership Seminar for nearly twenty years. The post-fire chief years provided many opportunities for he and his wife Nona to travel and see many parts of the United States.

Don is a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program. He received the Lifetime Achievement award in 2002 (its first recipient) from the Oregon Fire Chiefs Association. The OFCA also awarded him their Silver Trumpet award in 2009 (the 5th ever awarded).

Don met Nona Gable on a blind date in 1956 and they were married soon after. They were blessed with four children while living in Central Point. Don and his father built two houses for the young family. Moving to the Willamette Valley in 1966 meant they were closer to their parents and most of their siblings. He often said that moving to Monmouth was one of the best decisions he made in his life. Don and Nona were well-known in Monmouth for their gregariousness and for the “blowouts” (parties) they would host in their garage. They enjoyed having people over and Don had a knack for being a good listener to his colleagues at the fire department. He was a giving and friendly person throughout his life. Don and Nona were married until her passing in 2003.

Don married Arleen Smith in 2012. They traveled throughout the United States and to Australia. Don loved living in West Salem and enjoyed puttering around the yard with Arleen. He relished staying active and made many new friends over the last years of his life. Don’s smile was infectious, and he could remember virtually everyone he’d ever met. He greatly admired kind and generous people.

Don is survived by his loving and patient wife, Arleen; son Wes and daughter- in-law Jackie of Portland; son Colin and daughter-in-law Lucinda of Albany; daughter Alea (Nortness) and son-in-law Mark of Coquille; and daughter Lorinda (Watson) and son-in-law Bob of Monmouth. He is also survived by four grandchildren: Flynn and Ian of Portland; Abby of Salem; and Emily of Monmouth; and two sisters, Marie Arthur of Salem; and Sheila Kovatch of Mountain Home, AR. Don had many nieces and nephews that also survive him. The people whose lives he impacted were many, but he would tell you that they made an impact on him. Don’s family wants to especially thank Thor Johnson of Shreveport, LA for his steadfast friendship and support over the last forty plus years. They would also like to thank Dr. Gina Remington for her care over the last several years. Lastly, the staff at Salem Health Hospital were “superb” as Don would say.

A memorial will be held later this year when it is safe to do so. Donations in Don’s memory can be made to the Oregon Fire Service Museum, 1284 Court Street NE, Salem, OR 97301 ( The Dallas Mortuary Tribute Center is caring for the family.