Cover photo for Donald D. Chirlin's Obituary
Donald D. Chirlin Profile Photo
1936 Donald 2020

Donald D. Chirlin

March 31, 1936 — April 25, 2020

Donald D. “Don” Chirlin, 84, of Norwich, NY, passed away on April 25, 2020. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Sally (Child) Chirlin; daughter, Christy Everett and her husband, Steve; son, John Chirlin and his wife, Erin; grandchildren, Julia and Declan Chirlin, and Max and Sam Everett. He is also survived by his sister, Donna Nowack. Don was predeceased by his parents, Morris and Helen M. Chirlin.

Don was born in Fulton, NY, and his parents lived in various places including Maine where Don spent his early childhood. The family moved to Norwich when he was five. Both he and Sally have lived in Norwich their entire lives, except for a brief interruption when they went to college and early in their teaching careers.

In 1953, Don graduated from Norwich High School and then attended the Manlius Military Academy, ultimately graduating from St. Lawrence University in 1959. He earned his Master’s Degree from the University of Buffalo, began his teaching career in Barker, NY and West Winfield, NY before he settled in Norwich for the remainder of his life. Don spent the last 53 years as an active and significant part of the Norwich community, as a schoolteacher for 32 years and also as a member of the Norwich City School District Board of Education for many years.

Don got his start in competitive sports as a member of the Norwich YMCA junior basketball team. In his third year of “Y” ball, he was captain of the team. In high school he played a significant role on Norwich High School’s football, basketball, and baseball powerhouses. The press dubbed them the “Whiz Kids.” He went on to play football and basketball at both the Manlius Military Academy and St. Lawrence University. Don also coached high school football and basketball in Barker, West Winfield, and Norwich. His athletic exploits continued throughout his life. He was an avid golfer, tennis and pickleball player, winning multiple golf and tennis tournaments throughout his life.

Don taught American History, as well as Sociology and Economics at Norwich High School. He never shied away from controversial issues -- but he also did not impose his point of view on his class. Don encouraged his students to think for themselves. He was named Norwich’s Teacher of the Year in 1979, was awarded the Liberty Bell Award in 2016, and inducted into the Norwich City Schools Sports Hall of Fame in 2018.

He always said that teaching was his calling. More than history, sociology, or economics, he taught social responsibility. For years he was also an adjunct professor at Morrisville Community College teaching evening college courses in sociology and drug and alcohol awareness. Later he volunteered at Camp Pharsalia, a minimum-security prison. He spoke often about his students there, many of whom were incarcerated for low level drug offenses and other nonviolent crimes. He had a keen awareness of the many challenges those men had faced throughout their lives.

Don inherited his love for Norwich and sense of civic responsibility from his father. His father’s priorities were clear: family, community, and then his job. As a lifelong member of the community -- his community -- he viewed it as his responsibility to speak out against injustice. He has impacted countless lives directly and indirectly.

He often advocated positions that were not the most popular. Don was not someone who looked for a fight but would not shy away from speaking out for what he believed was right.

A celebration of Don’s life will be held at a later date, to include burial at Mt. Hope Cemetery. Contributions in Don’s memory may be made to the Donald Chirlin Scholarship for Outstanding Student Athletes, c/o Wilson Funeral Home, 68 South Broad Street, Norwich, NY 13815.

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