Donald Rayford Carlton

December 28, 1936May 16, 2023
Obituary of Donald Rayford Carlton
Donald Rayford Carlton, 86, of Kansas City, MO passed away on May 16, 2023. A memorial service will be held on Thursday, June 15 at Drexel Hall, 3301 Baltimore, Kansas City, MO 64111. Visitation begins at 5:00 pm, immediately followed by a service at 6:00 pm. Don was born on December 28, 1936, in Iowa Park, TX, the youngest of four children of Roy Bates Carlton and Susie Mabel Werther. He grew up in Fort Worth as a proud Texan from humble roots. He completed his bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University, served as a reserve commissioned officer of the U.S. Army, and met his wife, Joan, in Salina, Kansas where he was stationed while she was in school. They married in June 1963 and eventually relocated to Fairway, Kansas where they raised three children. Don’s early career in the publishing industry included a job as the circulation manager at National Catholic Reporter. However, his longest professional role was his 43-year stint as the “inker” for the comic strip Doonesbury, written by Garry Trudeau. What is an “inker” you ask? Well, as his daughter who lived within a few steps of my dad’s home office studio for over 18 years, I still barely understand exactly what he did. In the simplest of terms, and at the risk of overestimating my dad’s responsibilities (but not his talent), Garry wrote Doonesbury, and my dad drew Doonesbury—or, more accurately, finished drawing it—to make it publication-ready. Turns out, a lot of cartoonists have “inkers”. For a few years, my dad also performed this role for the comic strip The Far Side by Gary Larson. Outside of his professional career, my dad was also involved in local community theater as an actor, playwright, stage and set designer, and director in productions at Theatre for Young America, Martin City Melodrama, and Olathe Civic Theatre Association, to name a few. As was the case with his career, Don was an unconventional man and father. Here are some things he uniquely loved in life: the Kansas City Chiefs, cats (including his all-time favorite, Murray, who predeceased him in 2022 and with whom he is no doubt happily reunited), Late Night with David Letterman, Whataburger, Stephen King books, Stephen Sondheim musicals, the Shawnee Indian Mission, TCU Horned Frogs, Texas Monthly, the Weather Channel, military history, movie dates with his daughter, fishing trips with his adult son and friends, and perhaps most of all, the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Don made numerous annual pilgrimages to the town of Ouray, CO—aka “the little Switzerland of America”—and immersed himself in the local culture and community while exploring the surrounding scenery on jeep tours. He authored the popular “Ouray Sketchbook” column in The Ouray Plaindealer newspaper, providing a pen-and-ink drawing along with factual and reflective commentary on the region’s natural assets and points of historic interest. Over his many sojourns, Don became an honorary member of the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team and had the good fortune to meet one of his personal heroes, musician C.W. McCall, who was a local fixture and former mayor of the town. Don is survived by his son, Brendan (Shannon) and daughter, Rachel. Other surviving loved ones include his cat, Shiva, and family friends Jazmin Gorsline and Tim Degnan. He was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 54 years, Joan; his son, Joel; his parents; and his three siblings Leroy, Mabel, and Helen. Don would also want to acknowledge considerable gratitude and love for Saint Luke’s Bishop Spencer Place staff and residents for their unwavering kindness and support in the final years of his life. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are encouraged to the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team, P.O. Box 220, Ouray, CO 81427-0220 ( Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Carlton family.

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
Thursday, June 15, 2023