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Donald Lee Peyton (Donnie)

05/05/1948 - 06/19/2024

Donald Lee Peyton (Donnie) was born in San Francisco on May 5th, 1948, the second born son of five children.  He and his family relocated to Phoenix when he was 7 years old where he remained the rest of his life. After serving his country in Vietnam, Donnie returned to Phoenix and started a life raising three children and teaching them the beauty of the world.  Donnie shared his love of nature with family and friends; camping, fishing, and hiking the Grand Canyon as often as possible!   When he wasn’t in the outdoors, Donnie devoted much of his life providing trauma informed services to help others address and navigate crisis impacting their health and wellbeing.  Shortly after he returned from Viet Nam, Donnie was on the ground in the formation of Terros – an early drug counseling and crisis intervention program in Phoenix, Arizona, acting as a Volunteer Crisis Worker, EMT and developing and managing the inpatient and outpatient detoxification programs. Donnie later obtained his Masters of Social Work at Arizona State University, going on to use his talents and compassion in public service working with the Veterans Administration’s Vietnam Veterans Outreach Program; managing the  Psychiatric Social Work Department at the Phoenix Veterans Hospital; developing and managing the Community Assistance Program with the Phoenix Fire Department to provide crisis intervention services as well as developing and managing the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program in the Phoenix Fire Department. Donnie also worked as a reserve fire fighter with the Laveen Fire Department and the Daisy Mountain Fire Department as well as a K-9 Search Specialist with the Phoenix Fire Department FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Task Force. Donnie retired in 2019.

Donnie fell ill in his later life due to agent orange exposure in Vietnam, succumbing to complications of treatment, he passed away peacefully on June 19, 2024 with family at his side.    Donnie was preceded into death by his sister Karen, brother David and his mother Dorothy Peyton.   He is survived by his remaining siblings; Lannie and Linda Peyton, his brother-in-law Peter Rossi, his three children: Keith, Eric and Chelsea Peyton, daughter in law Stacie Peyton. He is also survived by his grandchildren Connor and Isabelle Peyton, great grandchildren Waylon and Micah Peyton, nephews David and Daniel Rossi, and nieces; Linda and Helen Peyton.

Donnie’s resilience and passion for life and nature, his sense of humor and the work he did in the Phoenix communities will have an enduring impact on the lives of many. He is loved and will be greatly missed.

Donnie wishes to be cremated and have his ashes, along with those of his beloved Shelby and Mac-his rescue dogs- spread in the Grand Canyon. A Celebration of Donnie’s life will take place in the Fall. The exact date remains to be determined.

In lieu of flowers, donations to The Mohammad Ali Parkinson Center are appreciated. Donations can be made at https://giveto.supportbarrow.org/mapc


  • Celeste Haren Keaton

    I’ve Donnie & his immediate family since he moved to Arizona at age 7. Although we lost touch several years ago, I still remember Donnie fondly. Even as a kid, Donnie was kind & gentle. Perhaps that’s why I had a childhood crush on him!

    I love you, Donnie. Always have, always will!

  • Wonderfully and sensitively written. Don was a great friend for over 40 years. I have been savoring the days I had left with him as it became increasingly clear that my time with him was dwindling to a precious few. Don and I served in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive. He was in II Corps where I served my first tour in 1965-66. In 1967-68, the Tet Offensive exploded throughout Vietnam. I fought in the northern part of South Vietnam, and Don fought in the Central Highland mountains. We both returned to Phoenix, AZ and both went to college where we earned Master’s Degrees in Social work. That’s what brought us together in our jobs with the Veteran’s Administration. We had a lot in common: we were both blue collar kids whose fathers saw much combat during WWII; we both returned home from our war stunned and confused that our country did not appreciate our service. We turned instead to trying to help others in psychological pain, and when we met, we were counseling other combat veterans who faced the same challenges we did as returning veterans. Like me, Don was half Irish, well read, kind, curious, and had a wicked sense of humor. With our Chicano buddy Rafael Chavez from New Mexico, we served and helped many Vietnam veterans and their families. In retrospect, we three agreed that was the finest and .ost selfless work we had ever done. Though Don is gone, he is still with Rafael and me and he will be forever. We honor his memory and feel his presence.

  • Don and I have been best friends since 1st grade at St. Matthew’s. He was always welcome at our house and he and I had great adventures playing cowboys and Indians and army. We swam on the swim team at University Park with Linda. At school we played on our sports teams with mixed results. Although it took us almost fifty years to re-connect are conversations were like a continuation of the day before. Once a friend always a friend. I curse Agent Orange and its effect on Don and all of our fellow Vietnam Veterans. I cannot say good bye but so long old friend.

  • Paul F Bycroft

    I met Don in 1st grade at St. Matthews and we have been great friends since then. We spent lots of time playing we were cowboys and soldiers were always welcome at each others house. at school we tried our hands at the various sports with mixed results. When school was out for summer Don, Linda and I swam on the University Park swim team. I lost contact with Don after he joined the army and was deployed. About fifteen years ago we re connected again and our conversation was like a continuation of the day before. We decided that to keep in contact and had plans for me to come to Phoenix or Don to come up to Oregon. However due to his health and Covid it didn’t happen. I knew he had developed Parkinson’s but he never told me about his battle with cancer. i absolutely hate Agent Orange and the harm done to our fellow Vietnam Veterans as well as the Vietnamese that were exposed to it. Our paths did not cross in the Nam I think his tour may have been over when mine started. Once a friend always a friend I cannot say goodbye but until we meet again.

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