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Donald Walter Renn

March 23, 1932 – May 5, 2018

Donald Renn
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Obituary for Donald Walter Renn

SOUTH THOMASTON – Donald Walter Renn drew his last breaths in the early hours of May 5, 2018 at the Sussman House in Rockport, ME with his devoted wife of nearly 63 years by his side. He was 86 and had lived in South Thomaston for 12 years. Dr. Renn had been in declining health for some time.

A research scientist with a long and illustrious career, including more than 70 patents to his name, Dr. Renn approached the world with curiosity and vigor. He actively contributed to advancements in biomedical science for over 60 years, from his eight years in cancer research at Pfizer in New Jersey – for which he turned down a Fulbright scholarship in Germany – through senior positions with Marine Colloids and FMC in Rockland, ME, to his own company, Creative Solutions, through which he consulted for organizations ranging from biomedical startups to Fortune 500 companies. Dr. Renn’s inventions included medical, diagnostic, and culinary uses for seaweed extracts and derivations. His research focused on hydrocolloids, natural product isolation, and biopolymers. Dr. Renn took great pleasure in traveling the globe, collaborating with scientists in his field, giving keynote speeches, helping start laboratories, meeting Nobel Prize winners, and mentoring young scientists. Until the very end, he loved reading scientific journals and keeping up with the latest developments.

Born March 23, 1932, in East Rutherford, NJ, Donald Walter Renn was the son of J. Austin Renn and Florence Shoup Renn. Arriving in Lancaster as an infant, he attended Manheim Township schools and Franklin & Marshall College before leaving Pennsylvania for graduate school at Michigan State University, where he received his Ph.D in organic chemistry. By working as a caddy and earning scholarships, he put himself through college. F&M recognized him with the Willig Pentathalon Award for Excellence in Chemistry. In 2005 the Manheim Township Alumni Association selected him as Distinguished Alumnus. When children, Don and his sister lived during summer school vacations with their paternal aunt and her family in central Pennsylvania. Aunt Leota Watts taught him how to manage farm chores, and how to fish and forage.
Dr. Renn loved living in Maine. Before moving to South Thomaston, he and his family lived in Cushing and Glen Cove. It was in Glen Cove, his residence of over 40 years, that he and Pat tended an acre of land including a garden so productive it supplied produce to local restaurants.

Some of Don’s happiest moments were spent traveling the world with Pat, boating with family and friends on Lake Megunticook, playing Scrabble and other games, and eating at fine restaurants. His favorite countries included New Zealand, Thailand, Japan, and China. Don’s artistic side expressed itself through playing guitar and piano as well as painting and photography. His nature phtotgraphs were published by the Portland Press Herald. He especially enjoyed going to concerts and listening to folk and country music. Don was a member of the First Universalist Church in Rockland, ME.

Donald Walter Renn is survived by his beloved wife, Patricia Eaby Renn, and their three daughters: Lori Renn Parker and her husband Marsten of Reading, MA; Lisa Renn of Bethlehem, PA; and Carrie Renn Hrichak and her husband Edward also of Bethlehem. He is survived by four grandchildren: Kristin Parker and her husband, Kyle Schaefer, Katya Hrichak, Julia Parker, and Nikki Hrichak. Don leaves his sister Mildred Martin and her husband, Edwin of Midlothian, VA; his sister-in-law Betsy Renn of Lancaster, PA; his cousin Janet Mulaney and her husband, Kenneth of Benton, PA; and five nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his half-brother Tom Renn.

A memorial service is planned.

In lieu of flowers, please make contributions in Dr. Renn’s memory in support of the Chemistry Department at Franklin & Marshall College, Office of College Advancement, P. O. Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003, with checks payable to Franklin & Marshall College (where the seeds of Don’s interest in chemistry blossomed into a distinguished career); or in support of the groundbreaking work of Holmes Morton, M.D., to the Central Pennsylvania Clinic, P. O. Box 5806, Belleville, PA 17004 (Dr. Morton’s dedicated personal attention saved a granddaughter’s life); or in support of the Sussman House to Pen Bay Waldo Foundation, 22 White Street, Rockland, Maine 04841, memo line “Sussman House” (where Don passed his last hours in peace and comfort, surrounded by love).

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A Memorial Service is planned and will be announced