Donald Lee Ross

Donald Lee Ross, 65, of Clarksville, Tennessee, passed away at his home on Saturday, June 20, 2020. 

His loving wife of 43 years, Shirley Gilliam Ross, and their son, James Gilliam Ross, were at his side.  Over the previous nine years, Don faced numerous health challenges that limited his mobility, but never diminished his quick wit, inquisitive mind, or soaring spirit.

Born in Hammond, Indiana, on July 26, 1954, to James Henry Ross and Margaret Darlene Romesburg Ross, Don grew up in Highland, Indiana. He was preceded in death by his parents and grandparents, father-in-law Orville Gilliam, and brother-in-law Dennis Gilliam.  Donald leaves his wife Shirley, their son Jim, and Jim’s girlfriend Lauren Hasse to cherish his memory. Don is survived by his brother, James Edgar Ross and wife Margo, of Loudon, TN; niece Kelly Lynn Ross of Chicago, IL; and nephew Thomas James Ross, his wife Emma and children Alannah and Elliott, all of Knoxville, TN.  Also surviving Don is his uncle James Romesburg and fiancee Gail Forsey of Glendale, AZ,; mother-in-law Velma Gilliam of Clarksville, TN; and sister-in-law Judy Gilliam Gruber and her husband Stuart Gruber of Mishawaka, IN.

Don graduated from Highland High School in 1972 where he won several state awards in speech and debate.  He also participated in football and basketball and represented HHS in the Boys’ State program.

In the fall of 1972, Don followed in his brother’s footsteps and enrolled at Indiana University at Bloomington to study business. In 1976, he was awarded a BS degree in Management/Administration.  While pursuing his degree, Don held leadership roles in the IU Speakers’ Bureau, the Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, and the IU Student Foundation.  Already a serious sports fan, Don’s tenure at IU enabled him to attend many football and basketball games fueling a passionate devotion to IU sports that lasted for the remainder of his life.  Don’s connection to IU deepened further in January 1974 when he met fellow student and future wife Shirley Marie Gilliam. Later in life, Don was involved with several IU Alumni organizations and in 1997 received the President’s Award for Alumni Service. It is no wonder Don often said Bloomington was as close as one could get to Heaven while still on Earth.

Shortly after graduation, Don began his career in Chicago as a sales representative for Ryerson Steel, a subsidiary of Inland Steel.  On December 23, 1977, he and Shirley married and settled in Hammond IN, a suburb of Chicago.  In 1978, Don’s promotion required the young couple to relocate to South Bend where they lived until moving to Mishawaka in 1985. In 1986, Don went to work for Cressy & Everett where he focused on commercial property development.  He was instrumental in the early phases of Edison Lakes Corporate Park and played a significant role in convincing National Steel Corporation to move their corporate offices there. 

In 1995, Don escaped from the corporate world and became a self-employed consultant, working on a variety of renovation and new construction projects. His newfound flexibility allowed him to become more involved with the community. He was president of the School City of Mishawka Education Foundation, president of the Mishawaka Business Association, and chair of the Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Affairs Committee, to name just a few. Don was a member of the First United Methodist Church where he was on the Board of Trustees and spearheaded renovation of the sanctuary. But his favorite role was Field Trip Dad for Jim’s classes at Beiger Elementary School. 

Don was devoted to his family.  He, wife Shirley and son Jim traveled often to visit relatives.  They spent many spring breaks at Disney World and followed IU sports with regular trips to Bloomington to see the Hoosiers.  He was a member of the Golf Committee at Morris Park Country Club in South Bend, and Don also enjoyed many events there with his family.

His remains will be cremated, and once social distancing concerns are relaxed, a celebration of Don’s life will be arranged.  Memorial gifts in his name may be made to any of the following organizations:  Indiana University Foundation, Austin Peay State University, Land Between The Lakes Association, First Tee of Michiana, or Best Friends Rescue of Russellville, KY, or to a donor’s favorite organization.

The family would like to thank all the medical personnel who cared for Don through the years, especially his wonderful home health care provider Bonni and infusion nurse Kristie. They also thank the EMTs who were called to the home several times and treated Don with such care.  They also appreciate Dr. Singer and the rest of the Tennova ER staff.

Online Condolences may be made at


To plant a tree in memory of Donald Ross as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

Recommended for you