Donald C. Orlich, husband, father, professor, author and inveterate poker player, died peacefully Saturday, Feb. 27, 2023, with his daughter and son by his side at Bishop Place in Pullman.
He was born Dec. 28, 1931, in Butte, Mont., to his parents Sam and Mary Orlich. He grew up in a family with a history of working in the copper mines and was one of the first in his neighborhood to get a higher education. He graduated from Butte High School in 1949, accepted a football scholarship to the University of Montana, majoring in biological science. Joining the U.S. Army, he was initially stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., followed by a stint at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Eager to return home, he accepted a position teaching elementary school for the Butte school system where his life took a new trajectory, meeting a fellow teacher who would soon become his wife, Pat Rend. They married in Butte in 1957, and were together for over 60 years until Pat’s passing in 2020. In 1960, the young couple moved to Salt Lake City where he earned his master’s degree. A return to Missoula followed, where he completed a doctorate in administration and curriculum at the University of Montana. A position at Idaho State University came in the mid-1960s and it was here where the couple purchased their first home. Their son Mike and daughter Laura Anne joined in the growing family shortly thereafter and in 1967 the family moved to Pullman where he joined the faculty in the department of education. This was the first chapter of what was to be over 55 years in the Palouse.
At WAZZU he was a student favorite, be it playing a cassette of The Who before class, teaching the likes of Gary Larson the cartoonist, or writing his dozens of books, his all-time favorite being a personal memoir, “Out of Butte” about his group of friends and their childhood exploits. He was proud that he had almost 100 funded grants and was central in introducing science education curriculum to school districts across Washington state.
Never one to sit idly, you might find him preparing for a weekend camping excursion, editing a book, traveling over the mountains to enjoy a concert at Jazz Alley, or scouting out the best seat for the annual Fourth of July festivities in Johnson City or Sunnyside Park.
Whether knee deep in poker chips, regaling others with funny anecdotes, or catching a chairlift ride to the top of the mountain for a ski run at his beloved Schweitzer Mountain, Don was always the man with purpose and passion.
He is preceded in death by his beautiful wife of 60 years Pat Rend and is survived by their children, Laura on Whidbey Island and son Mike in Kirkland, as well as wonderful extended family throughout the northwest and beyond.
A celebration of life ceremony will be held in the coming months. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make a donation to the Donald and Patricia Education Scholarship Fund at the University of Montana.
Corbeill Funeral Home of Pullman is in charge of the arrangements. The online guest book is available at corbeillfuneralhomes.com.