Mr. Donald K. Stephens, 83, of Lakeland, passed away peacefully on Saturday the 3rd of July, 2021, with his wife, Carol, at his bedside at Lakeland General Hospital.

He is survived by his wife, Carol Stephens; son, Brian Stephens, and his wife, Jean Stephens; granddaughter, Rachel Stephens, grandsons, Andrew Stephens, Matthew Stephens; son, Mark Stephens; and step-grandsons, Sam Sirani and Clayton Sirani. Mr. Stephens was preceded in death by his father, Clifford Stephens, mother, Mary Eloise Krenson; sister, Beverly, and brother, Kenny.

Don Stephens was born in Savannah, Georgia, on July 13, 1937. He was raised in Waycross and Savannah, Georgia, and Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida. He was living in Miami when the war was over and remembered celebrating V-J Day there. They finally settled in St. Pete, where he began attending elementary school.

“Fondest memories growing up included lying on my back in the grass at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Pete watching planes take off and land, and watching the B-29s and B-36s inbound for MacDill AF Base in Tampa, hoping I would someday be a pilot! I took my first plane ride in a Piper Cub on floats on Labor Day, 1947, at the Lions Beach Club on Sunset Beach in St. Pete. Began attending CAP meetings when I was 14.

In later years, finally got all my ratings, which included: Single-Engine Land, Single-Engine Sea, Instrument, and Commercial. Eye problem (detached retina) caused me to stop flying in 2012. The final entry in my logbook was flying a B-29. Not much left-seat time, but enough to say I flew a B-29!

I (mostly) went to Forrest Hills Elementary, Disston Jr. High, and St. Pete High, graduating in 1956. I graduated from St. Pete Jr. College in 1960 with an A.A. degree, and from the University of Florida in December 1962, majoring in Business Administration and Industrial Management. I graduated in the top 10% of my class.

I married Christine Louise Nelson on January 22, 1960. Our First son, Brian, was born April 3, 1965, in Ft. Worth. Second son, Mark, was born in Lakeland on November 8, 1966.

Worked part-time as draftsman while attending St. Pete Jr. College. A.A. degree St. Pete Jr. College, 1960. B.S.B.A. University of Florida, 1963. U.S.N.R. 1955-1962. Honorably Discharged 1962. 1963-1964 Armstrong World Industries, Boston, Mass. – Production Planner. 1964-1965 Ralston Purina Co., Ft. Worth, Texas – Dealer Financial & Credit Advisor. 1965-1970 Florida Tile/Sikes Industries – hired as production trainee, left as Vice President manufacturing to start Sun State Homes with Bob Adams. Began flying 1966 at KLAL. Soloed KLAL 2/2/67. Founder and president of American Home Mortgage Corp., 1980-1990, Lakeland, with five branches throughout central Florida. Sun State Homes – founded in 1970 with partner Bob Adams. Operated for 25 years until 1995, when I went in semi-retirement. Bob and his son, Joel, then started Highland Homes. 2005–Purchased the City of Lakeland lease on the former Piper Delivery Center building from the Federal Bankruptcy Court. It had 30,000 sq. ft. office space, 45,000 sq. ft. hangar space. I sold my 50% interest to the City of Lakeland in 2017. I continue to maintain an office on the premises. 1982-1994 Co-founder and Director, First Sterling Bank, Auburndale. 1990-1994 Member, Board of Directors, Lakeland South Rotary Club. 1985-1988 Board of Directors, Silco Life Insurance Co. 1988-1992 Chairman, First Sterling BancShares. 1995-1997 Board of Directors, First Commerce Bank, Winter Haven. 1997-2014 Co-founder, Director, Local Advisory Board, Platinum Bank. 2012-present: Board of Directors and Executive Committee Sun ‘n’ Fun Fly-In, Inc.

Other Boards I’ve served on: 1994-1996 Board of Directors, Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly) 1996-1997. Polk County Builders Association 1988-1990 (Chosen Builder of the Year in 1991 and 1992.) Only builder(s) to ever receive this award two times. Board Member, Florida State Builders Association 1990-1992. Board Member, National Association of Homebuilders 1992-1994. Highland Park Church, member of finance committee 2019-present.

I hold Single-Engine and Single-Engine Seaplane Ratings, as well as Instrument and Commercial ratings, and owned a 1998 Cessna 182S, N-439ES, as well as several other single-engine planes. I have flown 22 different types of aircraft. I hold Commercial Multi-Engine Pilot with Instrument Privileges.

Then on the evening of the millennium, 1999, Carol and I were wed and our beautiful lives began together. We have enjoyed all things possible that life holds dear, and she made my circle of life complete. We have traveled extraordinary places and have had extraordinary friendships. So as my new life begins with my Heavenly Father, don’t be sad for me because I will be where my soul will forever reign in a place that has no end. My challenge in this life was to glorify God and forever be in His presence.”

Celebration of his life and 84th birthday will be held at Lakeland Highlands Church of the Nazarene on Tuesday afternoon, July 13th, at 2:30 in the afternoon, followed by a reception at the Grasslands Club on Harden Boulevard. Condolences may be sent to the family at Heath Funeral Chapel.

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