Donald Edward Wilkes, age 90, of Lawrenceville, Georgia passed away November 7, 2019 due to complications following a stroke. He was born April 27, 1929 in Rome, Georgia. He attended Rome’s Boys High School where he played the flute and piccolo for 3 years before graduating in 1946. In 1950, he obtained a degree in Music Education from Georgia Teacher’s College (now called Georgia Southern University) and played the baritone saxophone in the college jazz band from 1947 until graduation.

After graduating from college, he taught band in Georgia for 34 years in Richmond Hill, Glennville, Burke County and Emanuel County Institute High School.  Donald then taught in Waycross for the next ten years (1956-1966) at many elementary schools including: Alice Street, Quarterman Street, Williams Heights, Morton Ave, Gilchrist Park, Isabella Street and Crawford Street.

From 1966 to 1973, he was the band director at G.P. Babb Jr. High School in Forest Park. The Babb band won many awards and trophies during these years and performed at a conference in Daytona Beach, FL in 1971 and at the Mid-West Clinic in Chicago, IL in 1972. .

Donald received his Master’s Degree in 1969 from Vandercook College of Music in Chicago and attended classes in the summer during his time off from the school year teaching.

He spent two years in Dekalb Co teaching in 5 elementary schools and in 1975 he returned as the band director at W.A. Fountain 7th grade school in Forest Park until 1984 in Clayton County The Fountain band won numerous Evaluation Festivals and performed in Hattiesburg, MS (1977), Pittsburg, PA (1978), and Knoxville, TN (1978). In 1982 the band performed a concert at the White House and the U.S. Capitol Building. In 1984 the band performed at a State Conference in Jekyll Island.

Donald retired from teaching in 1984 and continued to stay active working in a frame shop, working as a Bailiff at the Courthouse in Clayton County and as a Volunteer Trail Maintenance worker for the Appalachian Trail (Section (9.3) for seven years.

He played piccolo in the Atlanta Falcon Pep Band 1982-1985 and also played bass clarinet in the Tara Winds Adult Band in the 1980’s.

Donald loved his band students and his family. He traveled to Switzerland several times and Alaska twice. His mind was very detailed oriented and he was a very organized and punctual man.

He was preceded in death by his wife Mary Nell Willis Wilkes, his parents Paul J. Wilkes and Blanche Thompson Wilkes and great grandson, Brenton Scott Beshers.

Donald is survived by two daughters: Melody Gandolfi and husband, Tom of Woodstock, Maryland, and Jane Lynch of Lawrenceville, Ga; Grandchildren: Jason Beshers and wife Amie of Concord, Ga; Jenna Beigel and husband, Nathan of Ellicott City, Maryland; and Cameron Lynch of Dalton, Ga; Great-Grandchildren: Mitchell Crawford and his wife Jessi of Thomaston, Ga, Jaycie Beshers of Concord, Ga; Kinley Beigel and Quinn Beigel of Ellicott City, Maryland; Great-great granddaughter Kaiya Crawford of Thomaston, Ga. A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at 2:00 pm, Saturday, November 23, 2019 at Wages and Sons Gwinnett Chapel. The family will receive friends two hours prior to the service from 12:00 to 2:00 pm. Online condolences may be offered at

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  1. Mr. Wilkes definitely made an impact on me as he taught me how to play a Saxophone at Fountain. I have never and will never forget him and was very touched to learn that he had not forgotten me. God rest his soul. Praying God’s comfort on all of his family!

  2. I did not have the honor of knowing Mr. Wilkes; I did have the privilege of knowing his daughter Jane. Through her I am aware of his life and Mrs. Wilkes. It would be my conclusion that both he and James Mom has a great life, and the crowning achievement having Jane and Cameron for a daughter/granddaughter. It is my sincerest hope that the family and friends of Mr. Wilkes will all rejoice in a life well lived as they get together one last time for Mr.Wilkes’ Opus.

  3. He will be missed greatly. He was such an amazing man. He is responsible for so many of his students growing up to be responsible productive adults. I am so blessed to say he was my friend as well as my teacher. I can only imagine how beautiful the music will be in heaven with him up there playing his heart out.

  4. Jane & Cameron, My thoughts & prayers are with you. Jane, your Dad & Mom were two of the most wonderful people that I had the pleasure & honor of meeting.

  5. Don Wilkes left a profound impression upon me. I was fortunate enough to have him as a bandmaster in Waycross, GA during my teen years and throughout the rest of his tenure in Waycross. In my opinion, he was a tough act to follow-he required much and had a leadership style which resulted in me wanting to perform at my best. These are great life lessons which were profound in those crucial years of my development. It has only been recently I connected with his daughter Jane and I am grateful she communicated to him just how much of a impact he made on me and my life.
    Rest well my dear friend Don, you were loved by many.

  6. I remember him so well he was a great band director when he taught me at fountain Jr high he inspired me to always play from the heart I still love music and playing my clarinet

  7. I will always remember Mr. Wilkes with much respect and admiration for teaching me to play the flute. He was my band director and also my private lessons teacher for many years. He was patient and encouraging and I’m very grateful for his influence on my life. I’m praying for all of the family.

  8. I played the trumpet under Mr. Wilkes direction at W.A. Fountain, 1976, He taught me a lot, Condolences to his family.

  9. Condolences to the families of Mr. Don Wilkes. I was never in band but attended Babb Jr High his last two years there. We did have the best band around and you could see how much he cared for his students just watching him direct and interact with them. I also had his wife Nell as a teacher at Lake City Elementary school.

  10. I was in Mr. Wilkes’s band at W. A. Fountain. He had a huge impact on me and developed my work ethic, perseverance, and dedication. I never understood the great legacy he left for Forest Park and our band program. Although he may not have been my junior high band director, his legacy continued on through Mr. Eagan (at Forest Park) and Mr. Wilson (at Babb). After all, he was their teacher too. I truly appreciate the character and hard work ethic he helped develop in me. I am sorry for your loss! I am praying for you all. Please know he gave so much to so many! I am sincerely grateful for the immeasurable impact he had on my life.

  11. I played the Oboe at WA Fountain. Mr Wilkes defiantly scared the living daylights out of some people at W.A. Fountain Jr High School 🙂 …but not me.., He was one of my favorite people of all time. He had a great impact on developing my work (practice) ethic and as a person. I will never forget the words of wisdom he would say to us…, “If in doubt…DON’T” …. and I have had those words come to mind many many times over the years and have made better decisions because of them. RIP Mr Wilkes, Condolences to his family, I am so sorry for your loss. Praying for peace and strength during this sad time.

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