Don Wittenberg, who happily navigated the waters of life, first as a boy sailing on Lake Michigan and later winning regattas in the Caribbean and the Long Island Sound, died on Monday in Greenwich. He was 89.
Don died from pulmonary failure after a short stay at Greenwich Hospital, according to his wife, MaryAnne Garbarini Wittenberg. Donald Burton Wittenberg was born on July 15, 1927 in Oak Park, Illinois. He was chosen to be a bat boy for the Chicago Cubs (some of the players lived in his apartment building) and served as a member of the ROTC at Sullivan High School in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. He was a drummer and jazz enthusiast since his teenage years, when he and his classmate Lou Levy (later the legendary jazz pianist) played in a high school band.
Don served in the United States Navy and then graduated from Northwestern University with a business degree. He ran his own menswear business in Chicago for decades and then enjoyed his sports licensing business based in the Empire State Building.
A member of the New York Yacht Club since 1972 and a former member of the Chicago Yacht Club, Don sailed in hundreds of regattas in the ocean, on Lake Michigan and on the Sound, aboard racing yachts including “Tabasco,” “Freedom” and “Epic.”
Don met his wife, MaryAnne, also a sailing enthusiast, in 1994. Together, they sailed in local races, and later chartered fishing boats on Cape Cod and in Florida and especially Cos Cob, where they joined the Greenwich Water Club in 2011.
He often called himself “Lucky Don.” His family came first, but he also loved music by Ella Fitzgerald, annual winter Jazz Cruises and his extensive collection of the finest sailing trophies, including detailed ship and sailboat models, crystal pitchers, silver cups and even a side table modeled after a captain’s wheel for First Place Boat of the Year in 1978.
In addition to his devoted wife, Don is survived by five children from his former marriages: Charles F. Wittenberg (Christine) of California; Julie Kexel (Joseph) of Wisconsin; Jeff Wittenberg (Krishna) of Utah; Wendy Jordt of Illinois; Debi Lee (Robert) of Connecticut; and 11 grandchildren. He will be deeply missed by his sister-in-law, Alice Garbarini Hurley (Dan) and their daughters, Annie and Alexa.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Don’s name to the Litchfield Jazz Camp Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 69, Litchfield, CT 06759. The family will receive friends on Monday, April 24, 2017 from 11 am- 12pm at the Thomas M Gallagher Funeral Home ( next to the knights of Columbus) 453 Shippan Avenue, Stamford. A Memorial Service in Don’s memory will immediately follow at 12 pm at the funeral Home. To send on- line condolences to the family, please visit www.gallagherfuneralhome.com