OBITUARY: Don Von Raesfeld, Sr, Former Legendary City Manager and Councilmember, Dies

By Robert Haugh

Former Santa Clara City Manager and Councilmember Don Von Raesfeld, Sr. passed away at the age of 96. He died at St. Clare Church during Easter Mass on Sunday.

Don, Sr. dedicated over five decades of his life to serving the city, working in the Public Works department before serving as City Manager from 1960-1985 and as a City Council member from 1988-1992.

As City Manager, Don, Sr. was instrumental in shaping the Mission City of today. He led the effort for many of the developments in North Santa Clara. 

Silicon Valley Power’s natural gas power plant is named after him.

Don, Sr. and his wife, Celine, raised nine children on Alviso Street in Santa Clara. 

Three of their sons, Myron, Darryl, and Marty, became firefighters in the Bay Area, with a combined 70 years of public safety experience.

Don and Celine ran “Coast to Coast” Hardware on Franklin and Monroe Streets for 20 years, where each of her nine children spent many weekends working.

Don Von Raesfeld, Sr. was considered by many to be the Mission City’s greatest City Manager. He was also one of the most influential city managers in Bay Area history. Don, Sr. left an indelible mark on Santa Clara and will be missed.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor presents Don, Sr. with a plaque at the 2019 ceremony honoring the name of Mission College’s Fire Tower after the Von Raesfeld family.


  1. Don, to me was a personal friend and to me he was the very best city manager that our City of Santa Clara ever had. When I think bsck about his tenure, the entire north side of our City was transformed because of his vision and dedication.
    Rest in Peace my friend.

    • Raymond G. Gamma–Sorry and Condolences from the loss of your friend, Don Van Raesfeld, and Santa Claran giant. He was before my time, but we all know that he helped build Santa Clara into the beloved city that it is now…

      As you were close with him, would you please let us know his views on the trajectory of Santa Clara under its current governmental regime?

      Thank you in advance and god bless.

  2. May he rest in peace and May God embrace this family with His Grace🙏🏻
    Judee Soares

  3. Very sad about hearing about the news. He was a great person and he was a good friend to both my grandparents. I have great memories of my father and I going to coast to coast for tools. I also have a great memories of him on the no b campaign.

  4. What a blessing Don Von Raesfeld, Sr was to the city of Santa Clara. His departure from this world on Easter Sunday, while at St. Clare’s Easter Mass was like a message from God. “Well done my good and faithful servant, welcome HOME!! May God comfort the family in their deep loss. God Bless the Von Raesfeld family.
    Sincerely, Alma

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