Don Riedesel, aka Donnie, Gondola, and Pops, passed away on October 20, 2023 after a long illness. He was 77.
Donnie was born on June 6, 1946 in Washington, DC and grew up in Falls Church, VA with his parents Myra and Don Riedesel and sister Joyce.
He attended Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, WV. After high school, he attended the University of South Carolina (USC) in Columbia where he earned a degree in English. He served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War and was stationed in Adak, Alaska.
It was at USC where he met his wife of 43 years, Bonnie Smoak. Bonnie and Donnie left Columbia in 1979 and moved to Warrenton, VA where their first daughter Paige was born and where Donnie began his life-long career in woodworking.
Shortly after Paige was born, they moved to McClellanville, SC where their other two children, Anna Tay and Sam, were born. Donnie set up his first woodworking business, Broad Creek Door and Woodworking, that specialized in custom doors and architectural millwork. Living in this small fishing village, he often traded his woodworking for fresh seafood. It was not unusual to be paid in shucked oysters, shrimp or crabmeat.
In 1989, Hurricane Hugo struck the coast of SC and the village of McClellanville was devastated. Donnie’s shop, their house, cars, and boat were all destroyed. Donnie, his friends, and many volunteers rebuilt their home and restored his shop. They bought a new boat called the “New Daddy” and their son Sam, known as a “Hugo baby”, was born.
The Riedesels sadly left McClellanville and after a few brief stints in Highlands and Saluda, NC, landed in another magical place called Batesville. It is here that Donnie built his successful woodworking business and raised his family in this close-knit community.
Known as the “Door Man,” Donnie’s custom doors can be found throughout Albemarle County and central Virginia, Asheville, NC and Charleston, SC. Over the years, he built hundreds of interior and exterior doors for extraordinary homes, historical churches and synagogues, and simple cottages including their historic home in Batesville.
In his later years Donnie began making furniture for his immediate family and for a few fortunate friends. His beautifully handcrafted beds, dining tables, hunt boards, dressers and bookcases will be cherished for generations to come.
Family was everything to Donnie. He loved his children more than anything in the world. He loved sports and coached his kids in basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. He was their biggest fan. He was a beloved baseball coach at Cove Creek Park where his son played for many years.
He leaves behind to cherish his memories; his wife Bonnie and their children, Paige and her husband Chase, Anna Tay and Sam, his two grandsons Rowan and Pierce, his sister Joyce, many nieces and nephews and his lifelong friends.
A memorial service and oyster roast are planned for Sunday, November 12, 2023 from 2 – 5 p.m. at the Batesville Market.