Don P. Chairez

September 29, 1955January 21, 2021

Don P. Chairez, 65, of Pahrump, passed away in Las Vegas on January 21, 2021 from Covid-19. Don was born on September 29, 1955 in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to MSgt. Pedro Chairez and Clotilde (Patiño) Chairez. He was always proud to be a native of the “Show Me State” and was a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals. His father’s military service took the family to Colorado, Panama and finally to New Jersey. The Chairez family moved to the Sacramento area after Don’s father retired from the U.S. Army in 1965 to be close to his mother’s family.

Don’s family were Seventh-day Adventist and in 7th grade Don began attending Sacramento Adventist Academy where he would establish many lifelong friendships, including his best friend, Carl Opsahl, and his favorite teacher, Walt Pontynen. The Adventist religion taught Don to: “Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to Stand Alone”. Don graduated from Sacramento Adventist Academy in 1973 as the valedictorian of his class.

After high school, Don attended college at La Sierra College in Riverside, California with his best friend, Carl. A few weeks after beginning college, Don’s father lost his 4-year battle to cancer and Don was no longer just the “big brother” to Dina, David, and Dennis, but now their “father figure” as well. He gave his monthly Social Security survivors’ benefits to his mom to help his family rather than keep the money for himself. During his college summers, he worked as a camp counselor at Pinecrest Camp (now Sierra Pines Camp) near Lake Tahoe. After graduating La Sierra in 1977, Don attended law school at the University of Southern California and would be a proud Trojan until the last night of his life when a USC blanket that his daughters had bought for him covered him in his hospital bed.

After graduating from USC Law School in 1980, Don returned to Sacramento and began private practice, primarily focusing on immigration law helping clients who often could not afford the legal fees. In Ayala v. Campney, Don and his partners helped a young Mexican immigrant couple regain custody of their toddler son who had been taken from California to New York as an infant by a baby-sitter. Many years later, that young boy would proudly serve his country as a U.S. Marine. While practicing law in Sacramento, Don was introduced to a young educator, Maria Vasquez, by mutual friends. Don and Maria would marry on February 14, 1984. A few years later, their daughter, Monica, would be born on August 9, 1986.

In 1988, Don began working as a Deputy District Attorney for Washoe County. Reno winters can be bitterly cold, and in 1990 Don accepted a position as a Clark County Deputy District Attorney. In the Clark County DA’s office, Don would form many friendships, especially Tom Carroll. Don and Maria would add to their family on March 2, 1991 when their second daughter, Marina, was born to complete the family. In the Clark County DA’s office, Don was most proud of his work obtaining a conviction against the drunk driver who killed the daughter of Steve and Sue Tanner of Overton.

In 1994, Don was appointed to the Eighth Judicial District Court by Governor Bob Miller. His noted decisions would be protecting small property owners, such as Carol Pappas and the Aztec Casino, against eminent domain abuses by the City of Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency. As a judge, Don would often say, “The law is not just about a bunch of words on a piece of paper, but about people’s lives”. After an unsuccessful run for U.S. Congress in 1998, a race he lost by only 5,000 votes in a district that had 40,000 more voters of the other party, Don returned to private practice winning several cases before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In 2019, Don returned to work as a prosecutor, this time working as a Deputy District Attorney for Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia. Although Mr. Arabia was a graduate of the crosstown rival UCLA Law School, Don respected his keen intellect and treasured his friendship.

Don was predeceased by his parents, MSgt. Pedro Chairez in 1973 and Clotilde (Patiño) Chairez in 2009. He is survived by his wife, Maria, and daughters, Monica and Marina, of Las Vegas; siblings, Dina Schwalbach (Jon) of Oxnard, CA, David Chairez (Krista) of Las Vegas, and Dennis Chairez of Las Vegas, and four nieces and three nephews. He is also survived by three aunts, two uncles, and 17 cousins.

There will be a limited family service for Don at the Boulder City Seventh-day Adventist church on February 14 followed by burial at the Boulder City Municipal Cemetery. Later this year, there will be two Celebrations of Life for Don near his 66th birthday, one in Las Vegas, Nevada and one in Northern California, when it is safe for all to properly respect this great man. If you would like to help the family celebrate Don’s life by attending one of these events, please email Marina Chairez at

The family will be updating Don’s website,, to create a permanent memorial for Don with photos, remembrances, speeches, and updates on planned events. Don always valued education and if you want to make a donation in his name, you can contribute to the Sacramento Adventist Academy, 5601 Winding Way, Carmichael, CA 95608 with a note of “worthy student donation in memory of Don Chairez” or to the Don Chairez Scholarship at the UNLV Foundation, Box 451006, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV 89154-1006, which can also be accessed online at


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Don P. Chairez

have a memory or condolence to add?

Hugo Meier

February 15, 2021

I believe it was 1st quarter 1973 when I became acquainted with Don at La Sierra University. We were taking a physical education class (Tennis) together. Sorry to hear that Don had passed away.

Marianne Gil-Lian

February 7, 2021

Andy and I weep with you, Chairez girls, on the loss of our Don. His giving heart was exemplified in so many ways, but for us, it was his long drive to South Lake Tahoe, in 1995, to officiate our wedding. We won't forget his wit and his wonder at the world. He left an imprint on all of us and lives within you, Monica and Marina. Rest in love and peace, Don. We will see you in the morning.

Maria Alaniz

February 6, 2021

Dear Maria, Monica and Marina,
I am so very sorry for your loss; Don deeply loved you and I know that you truly adored Don. This is so sad and heartbreaking.

My memories are of Don back in the days when we were in our twenties; he was always sharing his goals and dreams. All the things he hoped to accomplish to make the world a better place. I remember Maria's house in Sacramento where we all used to gather and plan conferences while Don and his partners started their law firm. It was just the beginning for all of us.

My favorite memory is of a trip we took to Zion Park; we had so much fun. Sharing ideas, dreams and hopes for the future as we drove to Utah. When we arrived we were in this lovely park surrounded with amazing red rock monuments in the snow laughing and having a great time. It seems like it was not so long ago.

My heart is with you; my heart is at Zion Park on that day so many years ago; I can still hear the laughter.

Much love and many blessings, Maria

Suzanne Brothers

February 6, 2021

My deepest condolences to the Chairez family. ❤Just hold on to all the great memories you have and know God is with you all at this time.
I first met Don at the Orange SDA church where we had conversations about life, God and politics. He was a man full of life and very kind. He loved our Lord Jesus Christ and treated others with a kind gentleness. He will be truly missed by many. As he touched so many lives .
Suzanne Brothers

Louis Burgos

February 6, 2021

My dear friend, Don was a lover of our Lords duty to man kind, take care of the poor, tend to my sheep, we spent many Friday nights in deep study of the Lords word, such love for christ in all the things he did for anyone in need, fixing my citizen papers calling a judge in Texas to ask what was holding up the papers, and having them sent that same day. After all of that work, my question was how much do I own you, his responds God will repay, I had to nail him to the ground almost to pay him for his service, always telling me we need to help those in needs especially those with out a voice. I LOVE the man for he was a servant first, then a friend, and then a lawyer. To the family our deepest condolences, to our Lord he waits for that call Don come forward my faithful servant, blessings lou and trish

Henry Yong

February 5, 2021

I first met Don in 1975 when I enrolled at Loma Linda University, La Sierra Campus. I got to know Don really well after being in a few classes with him, and we were both also working as janitors in Sierra Towers, the men's residence hall. After he completed his studies and transferred to USC for his law school, I went and visited him several times. I recall cooking for him and his USC roommates a few times. Going our separate ways in the professional world, we still kept in touch and got together now and then. Don was a great person in many respects. His life was a story of success after years of sacrifice and hard work. He used to tell me of the many sacrifices made by his mother for him and his siblings. I first met his mother when I visited him at USC. She was there visiting him, and I still remember her motherly advice to me. As a successful attorney, Don could have chosen to work for the rich and powerful. Instead, he never forgot his humble roots, and chose to represent the silent members of our society - the disenfranchised, the undocumented immigrants, the exploited workers, those without a voice in our society, and those whose meager existence is a daily struggle. He found satisfaction and inner peace in serving the poor and down-trodden. Don had been a great friend since 1975. He was a great man whose life and whose work made a difference in the lives of so many. I will never forget Don Chairez -

RoSand Johnson-Parker

February 4, 2021

My heart goes out to my friend Maria and her two beautiful daughters for the loss of her husband and their father. May the Lord bless you with wonderful memories of the life you shared with Don. As you move through the healing process, have faith that the Lord our God is with you and will heal your broken hearts. Praying God will give you peace that surpasses all understanding and will strengthen you in this journey called LIFE. God bless you. ❤️ RoSand

Tom Rodriguez

February 4, 2021

When I first met Don, I thought he had a lot of greatness in him. He was good looking, highly intelligent, articulate, knowledgeable, and sensitive to the needs of others. He was also politically astute. When he sought an appointment to the District Court, he submitted by name to sit on the Judicial Selection Committee, which ultimately submitted his name to Governor Bob Miller who appointed Don to the position. Don served for several years with distinction as
a District Court Judge until he decided to run for Congress.
He eventually lost a very close race to Shelley Berkley. I will always remember Don as a champion of the poor and of the underdogs. He helped many people get their citizenship, their green cards, and was the attorney in a landmark emminent domain case in which his client prevailed. I will miss Don's good humor and his friendship.

Diane Peiffer

January 28, 2021

My prayers go out to the Chairez family. He was a wonderful man and he will be missed.

Myrna Waters

January 27, 2021

I wish to add my condolences to those you have received from many friends and co-workers. I met your beloved Don through my sister who came to know him when they had offices in the same building in LV.
He was a bright light in her life and they had many lively conversations about topics ranging from politics to food to family.
One year, when I visited in Sept. we all went out to dinner to celebrate both of our birthdays. I will keep that memory in my heart. May Don continue to be celebrated and remembered as a good man who cherished his daughters and lived with purpose.