Donald B. Regan
Age 91, of North St. Paul
Faithful Catholic, Founding Chairman of Premier Banks, Irish Family Man
Passed away peacefully and prayerfully on Friday, October 23, in the presence of his loving family. Preceded in death by his beloved wife of 63 years, Jean, parents Will and Agnes Regan (nee Wilson); Uncle Leo (Mildred) Regan, Aunt Ella Wilson. Sisters Maxine (Melvin) Orke, Lorraine (Bernard) Dougherty, Marie (Laverne) Lewison, Mary (Worth) Stiles. Brother Bob (Mary Lou) Regan, Son in Law Joaquin Espana Aguado.
Survived by their seven children, Michael O. (Mary E.), Patrick O. (Mary K.), Kelly Regan, Colleen Regan Espana, Sean O. (Mary D.), Katie (Andrew) Nath and Daniel O. (Korie); 26 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren, soon 15. Brother William E. (Sally) Regan; Brother in Law John (Robin) Joyce. Many nieces, nephews and friends.
Born July 19, 1929 in Le Roy, Minnesota into what Don called “genteel poverty.” In 1932, his father Will was tragically killed in a hunting accident. Don was three years old. His widowed mother Agnes, a devout Catholic, raised their seven children during the depths of the Great Depression. Don’s Uncle Leo, with his own family, and Agnes’ sister Ella provided much needed support.
Don began working at 12, shoveling coal from railroad boxcars. He worked continually till 91, spanning 79 years. He was a proud 1947 graduate of Le Roy Public High School, where he won a Statewide Declamation competition in Original Oratory. Le Roy, population 957, remained his lifelong “center of the universe.” He attended St. Mary’s College at Winona. After three semesters, due to his academic excellence, Christian Bothers at St. Mary’s arranged a transfer to Notre Dame. After one semester at Notre Dame, homesick and financially challenged, he returned to Le Roy and succeeded his Uncle Leo at the helm of Regan Motor Sales, the family Ford dealership. At 21, Don Regan was the nation’s youngest Ford dealer. He worked incessantly to support his mother and family. While on a Sunday morning rural newspaper route, he stopped for Mass in nearby Grand Meadow. In work clothes, he elected to sit in the choir loft, where he was captivated by a stunning teenage soprano. She was Jean Joyce, daughter of farmer Floyd and Marie Joyce.
In 1950, Don enlisted in the National Guard, was called to active duty and completed U.S. Army Rangers Airborne training. He received a hardship discharge and returned home to help support his mother. He pursued the choir girl, who was then enrolled in St. Teresa’s Nursing School.
On June 18, 1955 Don and Jean were married at St. Finbarr Catholic Church in Grand Meadow. They built a life and family together with shared Faith, love, and effort. After 63 years and seven children, Jean preceded him in death on June 8, 2018. Don demonstrated his undying devotion to her with daily prayers at her graveside.
Regan Motor Sales also operated three school buses in Le Roy. Don appreciated the steady income. In 1959, with two toddlers and another due, he bought 30 school buses with his brother Bob on St. Paul’s East Side, and founded St. Paul and Suburban Bus Co. Don and Jean moved their young family to North St. Paul and lived there in the same home for 61 years. Sister Claire Lynch, O.S.B, founding Principal of Archbishop Murray Memorial High School gave Don his first formal school bus contract. The school merged with Hill H.S. and became Hill Murray. So far, seven children and 15 grandchildren are Hill Murray graduates. Don faithfully and generously spent the rest of his life returning Sister Claire’s favor.
Throughout the 1960’s, 70’s and beyond, Don was a community builder and entrepreneur. He spearheaded a local committee to build Polar Arena in North St. Paul, was a founding partner of Indian Hills Golf Club, formed Voyageur Bus Co. in Duluth, Ottertail Coaches in Fergus Falls and Minnesota Coaches, Inc. He served two years as President of the National School Bus Operator’s Assn. Don, Jean and the Regan family made many lifelong friendships and memories along the way.
In 1974, he chartered Maplewood State Bank, opening in a double-wide trailer at White Bear and Beam Avenues. It was the smallest bank in Minnesota. In 1986, he sold St. Paul and Suburban Bus Co., having grown to 650 buses, to focus on banking. Maplewood State Bank expanded and became Premier Bank. In 1990, he formed Premier Bank Minnesota and Premier Bank Rochester. Today, they serve and support their local communities from 20 branches. Their combined assets are among the top ten banks in Minnesota. Don’s motto: Who we are. Where we’ve been. Where we’re destined. We travel together.
Don and Jean lived and embraced their Catholic Faith. They cherished Parish life and the school at St. Peter’s in North St. Paul. They admired and befriended Bishops, Priests, Sisters and Brothers. They generously supported them, and many other causes.
Don was an avid sports fan, especially of hockey and golf. He played neither with aplomb, but reveled in the competition, friendship and fun. For decades Don and Jean faithfully followed children and grandchildren competing in all sports. Don saw another grandchild score a goal at Aldrich three weeks before he died. He submitted a detailed scouting report. They cheered for HM and family at many State tournaments, winning the H.S. Girl’s Hockey title in 2015. The 2020 Pioneers Boys State Hockey Championship was his fitting, euphoric capstone.
Don attracted people with Irish magnetism. Whether big or small, he had a penchant for making each person feel special. With a warm smile, he’d delve into family trees, mutual friends, paths traveled, and paths crossed. He had unfailing faith in people and their potential. He loved to scrutinize and was a master at “picking winners.” Don Regan planted countless mustard seeds. Many were nourished, then flourished under his watch.
He was fearless of most things, save for his Almighty Father in Heaven, and his beloved wife on earth. When recently diagnosed with Coronavirus, he steadfastly chose to remain at home. His caregivers were angelic. Special thanks to nurse Janie of Our Lady of Peace Hospice. Family and friends were blessed to visit and pray with him and say goodbye for now. On Friday, October 23, he went Home to his Lord Jesus, Our Lady, and his eternal family.
The Regan family extends its deepest gratitude for the kind thoughts and prayers from so many. Due to Coronavirus restrictions, a private family funeral will be held on Sat., Nov. 21 at 11:30 am at Church of St. Peter North St. Paul. The service will be live streamed at www.bradshawfuneral.com. Private burial to follow at St. Mary’s Cemetery. A public celebration is being planned for Summer 2021.
Memorials are preferred to St. Peter North St. Paul Church and School Foundation, Hill Murray Foundation, or a Church or non-profit of donor’s choice.
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