Donald Brannon

Obituary of Donald Ray Brannon

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Among the first of the Baby Boom generation, Donald Ray Brannon was born on August 31, 1946, in Durham, North Carolina. He grew up in Alamance County where his father, Horace, was a high school principal and his mother, Sue, was a public health nurse. He spent much of his youth hanging around his dad's school after hours, spending time around sports practices even before he was old enough to participate. He starred in baseball, basketball and football at Altamahaw Ossipee High and then Western Alamance High, and his athletic abilities scored him a football scholarship to Duke. At Duke he majored in political science but more importantly he met Joan Long. After graduation in 1968 he was invited to try out for the Kansas City Chiefs but turned it down as Joan still had a year of school remaining. In September of 1968 they tied the knot. In subsequent months they found out that they both harbored an interest in joining the Peace Corps, so after Joan graduated in 1969 they set out across the world for a two year adventure in Afghanistan, a life-changing experience for them both. They celebrated their first anniversary in Kunduz and forged lifelong lifelong friendships with many other Peace Corps volunteers. Farsi was perhaps not the most useful language upon their return to the States, but it would later come in handy as a secret code to talk about things like Christmas presents in front of their sons. In 1971 Don was awarded a fellowship for Career and Technical Education at NC State University where he received master's and and doctoral degrees in education. They moved to Baltimore in 1977 for him to take a position at the Maryland Department of Education, where he ran the PPYAD Center, despite no one being able to remember what that stands for. In Baltimore they welcomed their first son, Josh, and three years later moved back to Cary, NC, for a new job in the NC Department of Public Instruction, and shortly thereafter welcomed their younger son, Ben. Don continued to work for NCDPI for the next twenty-six years, overseeing a long period of improvement in North Carolina's Career and Technical Education. But his true passion during this time was reading almost everything he could get his hands on and combining that knowledge into a remarkably long, dense, and occasionally bewildering book that also just might have been brilliant. Sadly a hard drive failure destroyed the only existing copy while he was still mulling over whether to seek publication. In 2008 he and Joan decided to retire to a place where they could wake up surrounded by nature. They found it in a 'hollar' just outside of Boone. He regularly picked up new obsessions du jour, but always stuck with his love of his family, fly fishing, and reading everything in sight. After a full day of doing things he loved, Don passed suddenly and painlessly during the night of November 8, 2022. He is survived by his sturdy wife, his two slightly-above-average sons, two loving sisters, and a whole host of cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends, who will miss his love, his kindness, and his odd sense of humor that we often were not quite sure we totally got. The family will be holding a Celebration of Memories of Don on Saturday, November 19th at High Country UCC at 1:00pm (8233 US 421-N Vilas, 28692). We welcome anyone to share a favorite anecdote about Don at his most Don. In true Don style, food will be plentiful and the dress code will be informal. If you cannot attend but have a favorite anecdote or memory, we would love to hear it and share it. Please email text or a video to If you will be driving through Boone to attend the service, please be aware that traffic may be heavier than usual. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations to , , , or Online condolences may be shared at the website Austin & Barnes Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Brannon family.
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