“Thou canst not stir a flower, without troubling of a star.” ~ Francis Thompson
From the family of Donald Michael Lunetta, Sr.:
With full hearts, we share the news of our beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend Donald Michael Lunetta, Sr.’s death on Friday, July 15, 2016. Don died at home surrounded by his loving family. We are grateful that his struggle with brain cancer has ended and that he is now at peace.
Born in 1940 to Samuel and Esther (Nieri) Lunetta, Don was raised in Sacramento, California, a proud son of Sicilian descent. His youth proved to nurture some of the character traits that stayed strong throughout his life: affinity to music, curiosity, science, nature, invention, and humor. He met the love of his life, Loretta-Jo (Abbott) Lunetta in 1951 while they were both active volunteers at the Sacramento Junior Museum, and after years of friendship blossoming into romance, they were married in 1960.
With the wedding guests waving farewell, Don and Jo headed for Colorado, where they built a home and brought five children into the world. Don worked at the Denver Museum of Natural History as the curator of the Planetarium. During his tenure at the museum, he designed several pioneering technologies for planetariums, including the first tilting dome and the first telescope/television projection system. Don’s systems were used by NASA and national news media to show the progress of the Apollo 10. The museum was also the perfect environment for Don to cultivate his natural teaching style, a talent he shared with everyone around him his entire life. In addition, Don was honored to be part of the discovery and first known documentation of nesting Goshawks in Colorado, with his photographs and story included in The Colorado Book of Birds. Don remains known at the museum for his sense of humor, wonder and aptitude for education and community outreach and was featured in their recent 50-year retrospective of the museum.
Hired by McGraw Hill in 1969, Don brought his family to New York, where he consulted on space and planetarium projects throughout the 1970’s. He appeared on a variety of TV and Radio Shows and was a featured speaker for many organizations, spreading his love of space and the natural world. He designed and directed the installation of planetarium domes and telescopes at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, NY, and at Camp Kaybeyun in Alton Bay, NH.
Don owned and operated his own business, Small Moon Enterprises, an international multimedia production company. Responsible for all aspects of production, he created multimedia interpretive exhibits for museums and special projects including work on the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum, the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston, the Charlotte Science Museum, the Amarillo Texas Science Center, Roanoke Science Museum, West Virginia’s Oglebay Park, the US Navy Band, Covenant House, and the Louisiana World Fair and Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. In 1979, the Governor of the State of Louisiana named Don as an honorary colonel of the governor’s staff, in recognition of the tremendous work Don did to promote the heritage of the State of Louisiana. Don photographically documented the development of the plans and eventual refurbishment of the Statue of Liberty in 1984. He was a pioneer in multimedia production and interactive communications and marketing, starting with his creation of a panoramic five camera system in 1975 and following through to water screens and interactive touch screens in the early 1990’s.
A lifelong independent learner, fascinated and competent with technology and human connection, Don learned computer language and programming from his home office as the digital age unfolded. He dedicated the final years of his career as a photographer and IT Specialist, first for Holmes and Kennedy Real Estate, and then for Douglas Elliman Real Estate. He was recognized by his peers as a tremendous team player, and in February of 2016 was honored with a Lifetime Achievement award by Douglas Elliman, which he accepted with grace and dignity on the stage of Radio City Music Hall.
Don was always inclined to create positive change, to participate in small heroic acts and to share the stories of those who were quiet heroes. Countless people, young and old, recount meeting Don on the boardwalk at the Pinecliff Sanctuary to discover the beauty and fascination of the natural world, always sharing a laugh or a story. Don treasured his many trips to the inland waterways of the United Kingdom, meandering by narrowboat through England and Wales almost biannually for two decades. Always seeking adventure, Don is fondly remembered as the oldest Grandpa to ever strap himself into the zip-line at Green Mountain College in Vermont.
Community engagement has always motivated Don, he served his country as an airborne radio operator in the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserves. He served as a member of the Saw Mill River Audubon board of directors and was instrumental in the planning, building and ongoing support for an ADA accessible boardwalk through the Pinecliff Sanctuary. Don and Jo were recently honored with the installment of a plaque on the boardwalk, honoring their nearly 50 years of stewardship for the reserve. He also served as an active member of the New Castle Citizen Emergency Response (CERT) Team, the Chappaqua Rotary and was always prepared for random acts of kindness.
Don was most proud of his family. He was a devoted and loving husband, father, grandfather and uncle. Upon learning of Don’s death, his family received this kind message from someone who recalled growing up with Don as his neighbor: “It’s hard to fathom how many lives he changed for the better. I know it’s in the thousands and I would not be surprised if it’s in the tens of thousands… Anyone, everyone… always a kind word and an explanation for some aspect of nature, some fact of art or photography. Always with a wisecrack and a smile. Just a good man who made the world better.” We are thankful for this perceptive and comforting comment, as it captures the spirit of the man we cherish.
Don is survived by his devoted wife and partner of 56 years, Loretta-Jo Lunetta of Chappaqua NY; his brother Dennis and wife Hazel, sister-in-law Sharon Lunetta, his beloved children Roslyn Lunetta, Matthew Lunetta and wife Chenoa Dovon, Samuel Lunetta and wife Bonnie Bisgeier, Celeste Lunetta and husband Don Crooker, Donald Lunetta Jr., grandchildren Meiko Lunetta, Silas Lunetta, Evan Lunetta, Rosemary-Jo Lunetta Crooker; and several nieces, nephews and valued friends.
Please join us at a celebration of Don’s life, which will be held on Sunday, August 14 at Teatown Lake Reservation; 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. The service will be at Noon, with light fare and socializing afterwards. Teatown Lake Reservation is located at 1600 Spring Valley Road, Ossining NY, 10562. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Don’s memory to the Chappaqua Library (195 South Greeley Avenue, Chappaqua NY, 10514), or to the Saw Mill River Audubon Pinecliff Sanctuary Boardwalk (275 Millwood Road, Chappaqua NY 10514).