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Covell Funeral Home

OBITUARY

Don Leroy Shaff

December 7, 1933October 10, 2020

Don L. Shaff, local entrepreneur and lifelong resident of Traverse City, passed away at his home on Saturday, October 10th, 2020 at the age of 86. At his side were his wife of 64 years, Erna Shaff (Panek), daughter Laura Carlton (Shaff), and her husband, Harold Carlton. Don was born in Traverse City on December 7th, 1933, to Everett and Mary Shaff (Haws), and spent his youth in the family home on West Grand Traverse Bay, where the Holiday Inn Resort West now stands.

Don began working at the age of eight by selling newspapers up and down Front Street. He worked a number of jobs in local restaurants as a teenager, and went on to graduate from Traverse City Schools. After high school, he worked as a veterinary technician, a job that would eventually lead him to meet the love of his life, Erna. The two were married in Traverse City on June 2nd, 1956, while Don was serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the U. S. Navy, aboard the USS Pickaway, homeported in San Diego, CA.

After receiving his Honorable Discharge, Don and Erna returned to Traverse City and started a family. Don worked for several local employers until 1960, when he purchased a small restaurant in East Bay Township. This restaurant would become a local institution, and is still going strong today…Don’s Drive In. From 1960 to 1980, Don built up the restaurant’s reputation far and wide, and doubled its size. During Don’s tenure as owner and founder, curb service was offered 365 days a year, and no matter the temperature outside, carhops were expected to be standing at the driver’s side window with pad and pen in hand. Don believed in serving his customers a high quality product each and every time they came in. He was there each day to greet his customers, sometimes sit down and chat for a bit, check on their meal, and say goodbye with the phrase “Come again and bring a friend!” This was not just a catch phrase, but it was how he approached everyone…as a generous friend. Many a person who couldn’t afford the price of a burger and fries, still found themselves well fed.

Great burgers and top-notch service weren’t Don’s only talents and passion. He loved to entertain families and see people have a good time. He took his passion and creativity, and he funneled it into designing and building miniature golf courses in a number of locations across Michigan and one in Canada. Don possessed the vision to see in his mind’s eye an entire mountain golf entertainment facility where others could only see a vacant lot.

One of the few things that gave Don more joy than his role as business creator, was time spent with his family. In addition to his wife Erna and his daughter Laura, Don had two sons, Bryan and Brad. Don was the kind of dad who would join in whatever game of hide and seek, dart gun battles, or water balloon fights was going on at the time. He did this long before it was the “thing” for dads to do. Although time eventually slowed him as it does all people, his love and utter joy at being with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, was evident by the smile that would spread across his face whenever they were around.

Don was preceded in death by his parents, Everett and Mary, and a sister, Ethel. He is survived by his wife Erna, his daughter Laura Carlton and husband Harold, son Bryan Shaff and wife Sheryl, son Bradley Shaff and wife Diane, eight grandchildren: Cory Carlton, Lindsey Mack (Carlton), Scott Shaff, Keith Shaff (currently serving overseas in the U.S. Air Force), Amanda Costello (Shaff), Emily Wollberg (Shaff), MacKenzie Swinford (Shaff), and Jacob Balm, eight great grandchildren, and a sister, Eileen Hines. Lastly, Don is survived by the legacy he created with his life…a legacy of an adoring family, lifelong friendships, honor in business, and a community that is better off for him having been a part of it.

Services

  • Visitation

    Thursday, October 15, 2020

  • Funeral Service

    Friday, October 16, 2020

    VIEW VIDEO

  • Committal Service

    Friday, October 16, 2020

Memories

Don Leroy Shaff

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Jean Stark hines

October 19, 2020

I was a car hop at Don’s Drive In for 2 years while attending high school. Don always had a smile on his face and a cup of coffee in his hand . He was a bundle of energy , always talking with customers, and sometimes taking over as chief cook and bottle washer. He helped to make it a fun place to work. I have great memories of my time working there

Megan LaPlante-Seleny

October 18, 2020

My father, a fellow local restaurant owner, introduced us to Don’s Drive-In. It was one of his favorites! Sending our heartfelt condolences to Don’s family and especially to my dear friend Brad. Hoping all the great memories of your dad fill your hearts during these difficult times ♥️

Lisa Kerkhof

October 16, 2020

Don thank you for opening your restaurant. I have fond memories as a teenager working at Doug Murdick’s Fudge. Around lunch time if we spotted a $20 on the counter top it was a sure sign Doug was treating us to Don’s Drive-In. Hands down your Burger Basket was better than our sack lunches.

Edwin O’Connor

October 16, 2020

My Mom, worked for Don as a car hop back in the early to mid 60’s at Don’s Drive-In.
We ate there many times over the years and I have fond memories of the great tasting hamburgers and seeing Don from time to time!
Thank you Sir for your contribution to our city and the memories we share!

Becky Birkhofer

October 16, 2020

I just want to extend my sympathy to the family. I always remember Don sitting in his recliner he always had a bright spirit and smile. We need more Dons in this world!

Aimee Simerson

October 15, 2020

Don's Drive In is a great restuarant! I was in Kapa'a Kaua'i at a place called Bubba's Burgers, the couples in the booth next to us were talking about burgers and shakes from Don's Drive In. Don will be missed.

Matt Harty

October 13, 2020

Don thank you for the wonderful memories growing up with my Dad’s friends and their children, Laura, Brian and Brad as we learned how to smelt dip, snowmobile, enjoyed New Years play ping and chase the bats and raccoons at Interlochen Campgrounds each summers.
as I reminisce with my family, my condolences to Your family,
Matt, Kara, Finn and Maris Harty

FROM THE FAMILY
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FROM THE FAMILY

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