Cancer claims local inventor, designer
By MELISSA LEE / Lincoln Journal Star
Don Maxwell - Sprint Car Builder/Inventor Passes
He worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
On Christmas Day, he usually joined the family for a quick dinner, then waved goodbye and returned to the shop.
Little surprise, then, that Donald Maxwell, body broken down by cancer, continued to work until just days before his death.
Maxwell â€“ self-employed engineer, race car driver, builder, inventor, friend to the stars and much more â€“ died Saturday after a 2 1/2-year battle with bone cancer. He was 61.
â€śMy dad worked until the day he couldnâ€™t,â€ť daughter Tammy Shubert said Sunday. â€śBut it wasnâ€™t work to him. He went to work to play. Not many people can do that.â€ť
Maxwellâ€™s death came just two weeks after he and his ex-wife, Sandy, re-married almost 38 years to the day after their first union in Albuquerque, N.M.
Sandyâ€™s reason for divorce in 1990: Don worked too darned much.
He tried and tried to win her back, but she resisted until the end, when she finally allowed a minister into his hospital room to officially re-unite them.
â€śIt was one of his last great wishes, to marry me again,â€ť Sandy said with a trembling voice. â€śHe was my companion. We had plenty of good times.â€ť
Greatest among Maxwellâ€™s achievements were his inventions, several of which were patented. He recently created a leg brace that helps patients with knee problems walk easier, his wife said.
He also pioneered the portable stage set, now used by famous county acts who want to set up and dismantle their stages quickly while theyâ€™re on tour.
Maxwellâ€™s creation folds up and expands like a charm, Sandy said.
Singers like the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks must agree â€“ theyâ€™re just a few of the notable acts who have used the portable stage set.
â€śHe was a pretty brilliant man,â€ť Sandy said. â€śVery powerful.â€ť
And well-known. Toward the end of his life, doctors had to move him to a bigger hospital room because so many friends were dropping by. And his memorial wonâ€™t be held at a cozy church; rather, itâ€™ll be at the Ice Box, where there will be room for thousands to pay their respects.
The site is fitting: That giant star that drops down before Stars hockey games? Maxwell designed and built it.
The auditorium will also have room to display some of the race cars he designed and drove, a giant chandelier he built and a collage of photos â€“ not to mention a cash bar and buffet line.
Maxwell wouldâ€™ve wanted his guests to feel taken care of, family members said. He was that type of guy: Anytime anyone had a problem, heâ€™d solve it.
Shubert remembers a father she could call on for advice, financial assistance or even a helping hand when her kids needed to build a project for science class.
â€śHe could solve anything,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s nice to have someone like that in your family.â€ť
Even after the cancer diagnosis, her father was sharp-witted and hardworking, she said.
Toward the end, the disease became too much to handle. His kidneys failed, his lungs filled with fluid, his mood swung dramatically.
But he was still Don â€“ still the man who loved to play around in his shop.
â€śThat was his real love,â€ť Sandy said. â€śHe was a winner.â€ť
Reach Melissa Lee at 473-2682 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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