Swan Funeral Home

1224 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook, CT



August 4, 1928January 21, 2020

Donald Miller Higgins, 91, of Essex, passed away peacefully on January 21, after a valiant five-year battle with cancer. His children were at his bedside and he died knowing his profound devotion to his family was matched only by its undying love for him.

Don was born on August 4, 1928 to Dr. Victor William Higgins and Beatrice Pasfield Higgins in Jamaica, N.Y. In 1937, the family moved out “to the country,” Essex, where Dr. Higgins established a thriving medical practice and Don enjoyed an idyllic childhood with his older brother and best friend, Dick. They explored the countryside on horseback, raised chickens, chased after (and were chased by) the family Great Danes, got happily lost in adventure books and were captivated by live events, both theatrical and real-life, broadcast on live radio. At ages 10 and 11 respectively, Don and his brother took the train to New York by themselves on an overnight stay to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers, an experience they would repeat many times together.

Following graduation from Philips Exeter Academy, Don attended Brown University (Class of 1950) majoring in Psychology. At Brown, Don became a founding member of The Narragansett Lacrosse Club by repurposing used equipment from Yale. From this humble beginning, the team eventually became 10-time Ivy League champion Brown Lacrosse.

Although his college degree qualified him to become an officer, Don trained for infantry at Fort Dix Boot Camp in preparation for service in the Korean War. That display of humility at age 22 would become an unspoken core value for life.

A bout with appendicitis landed Don in the hospital shortly after arrival at the U.S. military base in Nara, Japan. His subsequent recovery from surgery led to a passion in pharmacy which he pursued as a career by attending the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy on the GI Bill. A chance meeting with a dark-haired beauty with deep green eyes at a record store in Storrs would set in motion the most meaningful events of Don’s life. Don and Faye Sterry Raymond married on Dec. 28, 1957 and children came in quick succession – Jonathan Matthew in November 1958; Sarah Caroline in November 1959 and Richard Sterry in February 1961. Whenever he was asked “What were you thinking having three children so close together?” Don would say, “Who was thinking?”

Don’s professional journey included his work on a cancer drug at the former Lederle Labs in Pearl River, NY beginning in 1970 and production of veterinary medicine at Masticure in Norwich, CT from 1975 to 1982. His career came full circle in 1984 as Lab Supervisor at Tower Labs in his beloved hometown of Essex. Don retired in 2002 at age 74.

Don was a devout and active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Essex, where he attended and contributed to services since 1937. Among many cherished friends from church are his fellow members of the weekly Breakfast Boys club. Don was an 82-year resident of Essex.

Don’s family would like to express their deep gratitude to the congregation and the community for their wonderful, constant support and many acts of kindness over the years. Special thanks to the remarkable staff at Smilow Cancer Center in New Haven.

Don is predeceased by his wife of 44 years, Faye Sterry. He is survived and will be dearly missed by his son Jonathan and his wife Lisa of Lutherville, Maryland; daughter Sarah and her partner Bob Gahran of Ivoryton; son Richard and his wife Rachel of Essex. Grandpa (or Pa) was adored by his grandchildren Jamison and Hilary Gahran; Liam, Mallory and Nicola Higgins and two step-grandchildren, Olivia and Gwen Sokol.

Funeral services for Donald Miller Higgins will begin at 10am, Feb. 1 at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Main Street, Essex. Donations in his memory can be made to the VRHS Lacrosse Booster Club, PO Box 242, Essex, CT 06426.


  • Memorial Service Saturday, February 1, 2020



have a memory or condolence to add?

Debra Carcio-Mals

January 29, 2020

Dear Sarah, Bob, Jamison, Hilary and All Your Family. I am so very Sorry for your Loss of your Dad and Grandfather. What a Beautifully Written Tribute Celebrating your Precious Dad’s Wonderful Life! May Beautiful Memories soon help to ease your Sadness. I am Holding You and your Family Close in my Heart, Thoughts and Prayers and Wishing you God’s Peace and Comfort! ❤️🙏❤️
With Love,
Debra Carcio-Mals and Family

Susan Toscano

January 29, 2020

I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your father. I can only know how heartbroken you are from the loss of my own father. I remember your Dad at your house when we were kids; he had a protective and kind presence. This is a difficult time, and I send strength and faith to you and yours.
With love, your friend always,
Sue Scoboria Toscano