Donald Jay Douglass was born Aug. 7, 1924, to Eben and Lois (Smith) Douglass near Sommerford. He passed away Aug. 28, 2011 at Jennie M Melham Memorial Medical Center in Broken Bow.
Donald graduated high school from Gates Public School. After high school he cowboyed with his older brother Earl, on the Walt Cole ranch north of Anselmo. He was drafted into the US Navy where he served as a radio operator on Adak Island off the coast of Alaska during World War II.
While on Adak Island he sang in the post choir and assisted the post Chaplin with church services. Upon his honorable discharge from the US Navy he returned home to the Gates community. He later went to New York State to study music at Nyack College. After college he settled in Chicago and managed a music store there for 20 years. While in Chicago he became very active with the Moody Bible Institute and began visiting nursing homes, sharing the gospel with the residents. In the early '70s he returned to Custer County and opened his own music store in Broken Bow for a short time.
When he returned to Custer County he also started a small ranching operation buying feeder calves and fattening them on grass through the summers. This is also when he began purchasing land. He would work to 'clean up' a property and run a few head of calves on it for two or three years before selling the property for a profit and looking for another piece of land to start over with again.
During the '80s he purchased a property on the west edge of Arnold where he founded the Gospel Barn. For 10 years he put on music events, inviting local talent to the Gospel Barn to share their Christian music talents and their personal testimonies. Countless people would come from near and far to enjoy the fellowship of the Gospel Barn on Saturday evenings. They would join in the singing and worship and enjoy gospel music and the testimonies shared.
A strong wind storm caused structural damage to the barn that left it unrepairable so the barn was burnt and Donald sold the place. He then moved to Camp Maranatha where he volunteered as a grounds keeper. When he moved back to Custer County from Chicago he continued with his nursing home ministry by traveling to area nursing homes singing and giving his testimony as the Gospel Cowboy. He continued as the Gospel Cowboy for 30 plus years traveling throughout central Nebraska to many nursing homes and churches sharing the love of Jesus.
Many locals will recall Donald with his tape player, cowboy hat and boot as he made his rounds. Donald never met a stranger and loved to visit about cattle and the gospel over a hot cup of coffee. Donald is preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Earl and Leo, and sister Faye Davis. He is survived by his brother, Dale and sister-in-law Ula of California; sister-in-law, Erma Douglass of Broken Bow; brother-in-law, Harold Davis of Wood River, and several nieces, nephews, and great, and great-grand nieces and nephews.
Donald chose to donate his body to the University Of Nebraska Medical Center in an effort to further medical student's education. A memorial service will be held at the First Christian Church in Broken Bow Saturday, Sept. 10 at 2pm. Memorials are suggested to Moody Bible Institute or Camp Maranatha.
Published Custer County Chief, Sept. 1, 2011