Don Power to be Remembered, Celebrated, in Special Gathering at Library

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Friday, March 13, 2020, 9:00 am
Emily Joan Elliott

Donald F. Power, a longtime East Lansing resident and advocate for his community, will be remembered this Sunday, March 15, at a celebration of his life at the East Lansing Public Library. Doors will open at 10 a.m., and guests are invited to share their memories of Power beginning at 11 a.m.

Given the coronavirus, this will be a “no touch” gathering. Smiles and waves from a “social distance” will be most welcome.

Friends remember Power as tirelessly and fearlessly fighting for the people of East Lansing for decades. His widow, Maureen McCabe-Power, shared, “He was a big man with a big voice and not afraid to use it. We need more of that fearless advocacy.”

Power began his outreach in East Lansing in the 1970s and 1980s when he assisted with a program, “Trees for Tomorrow,” planting trees on the meridian on Grand River Avenue. He also led a large initiative to help MSU students to vote and worked on local political campaigns.

Eliot Singer, a friend of Power, recalled to ELi that “Don was instrumental in calling attention to East Lansing’s financial problems, when those in power were in denial. He was, however, unwilling to support new taxes on citizens while developers continued to receive tax breaks.”

Power was vociferous in his criticisms of what he found unjust. When asked what she wanted people to remember about Power, McCabe-Power said, “Don was one tough cookie. He totally believed that if you haven’t made any enemies in life, you haven’t stood up for anything.”

Strong advocate for social justice

While Power was not afraid to take on City Council — on which he briefly served — and the East Lansing political establishment, Singer emphasized that Power also made great contributions to the community behind the scenes. Power was an active member of the Kiwanis Club, reviving the Kiwanis Key and Circle K Clubs. He also supported ELPL, the East Lansing City Council, and the Jazz Festival Board.

Power’s commitment to social justice was evident in the work that he did for these organizations. According to McCabe-Power, “He hated elitism and worked hard to advocate for those who he thought lacked access to power.”

He was enthusiastic about the Kiwanis Club’s project providing backpacks and food packages to needy children. Power also encouraged donations for the Davies’ Project, through which volunteers provide roundtrip rides to medical visits for sick children. Power fought for the millage to support the East Lansing Library, stemming from his belief that everyone, regardless of income, should have access to information.

In his professional life, Power was a labor mediator for over 35 years with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, helping workers in Ohio and Michigan. He also was an adjunct instructor at MSU’s Personnel Management Program Service at the School of Human Resources and Labor Relations. His students kept in contact with him for decades, some even traveling to visit him when he was hospitalized.

Power was also known for his love of animals. During his marriage to McCabe-Power, the pair saved 11 cats and four dogs. Power even rescued a possum that has been hit by a car. His widow recalled that, “He buried squirrels who had been killed in the road and brought birds who hit the window back to life by rocking them in his big hands.”

McCabe-Power welcomes all those who knew Power, but asks that visitors attend Power’s Celebration of Life only if they are feeling well and not at high health risk.

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