Donald V. Sweet, 64, forest fire smoke jumper

November 14, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Donald V. Sweet, a former smoke jumper for the U.S. Forest Service who made more than 50 jumps to extinguish forest fires during his four years with the service, died Friday of cancer at his Glen Arm home. He was 64.

In addition to his career, which included work at the Social Security Administration and later a family-run party rental business, Mr. Sweet performed many community activities. He volunteered with Earthwatch, a group of scientists and volunteers who traveled around the world on research projects, primarily archaeological digs.

"He never went to the posh places; he'd go to the places where there was no water and no way to reach him," said his daughter, Nancy L. Bushover of Norrisville. "He was never not busy. He was so diverse. There was never any one thing he just did."

His Forest Service career was based in Missoula, Mont., in the 1950s. He was sent wherever a forest fire raged and the only way to attack it was by air.

"They'd mostly send him to New Mexico and places in Montana, Washington and the Northwest," said his wife, the former Doris Styche. "He liked being outdoors; anything outdoors was good for him. He loved doing it."

Despite the number of jumps, Mr. Sweet never suffered serious injury. However, he was tangled in a tree several times and sprained his ankles numerous times. He was hospitalized once for an odd reason.

"He jumped and got poison ivy all over his body," his wife said. "It was carried through the smoke, and he got it all over him."

Born in Kelso, Wash., Mr. Sweet graduated from Washington College in the late 1950s and received a master's degree from American University in 1976. He obtained a second bachelor's degree in 1993 from the University of Maryland.

He began work for the Social Security Administration in 1956 at its offices in Walla Walla, Wash., transferred in 1961 to the Woodlawn office and retired in 1987 as an information specialist.

His first marriage ended in divorce in 1973; he remarried in 1977 and the couple settled in Glen Arm the same year.

In his retirement, he and his family operated Omar the Tent Renter in Glen Arm, a shop that provided party supplies. He sold that business in 1993.

He owned the business as somewhat of a dare to himself, his wife said.

"He felt he was a government bureaucrat who couldn't make it on the outside world," Mrs. Sweet said. "It was a combination dare and wanting to have a family business."

Mr. Sweet was a co-chairman last year of the Maryland Public xTC Television Society for Excellence in Television, a charter member of the Fells Point Corner Theatre, a former Cub Scout Master and part of a group of Social Security workers who volunteered at Rosewood State Hospital, Meals on Wheels and Foster Grandparents.

Mr. Sweet edited newsletters for many of the organizations he supported, and was co-author of a book about the history of Woodlawn in Baltimore County, published in 1976, the bicentennial year.

"He just seemed to always enjoy himself and life," Mrs. Sweet said. "He lived life to the fullest."

Services will be at 10: 30 a.m. Monday at Garrison Forest Veterans Cemetery, 11501 Garrison Forest Road in Owings Mills.

Other survivors include four sons, Dana L. Sweet and Colby G. Sweet, both of Apopka, Fla., Lindsay K. Sweet of Baltimore and Jeffrey T. Sweet of El Centro, Calif.; a sister, Peg Lindblad of Wolsey, S.D.; and seven grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Fells Point Corner Theatre, 251 S. Ann St., Baltimore, 21231.

Pub Date: 11/14/96

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