Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society


In Memorial


Donald (Don) James Foley (77)

California Licensed Land Surveyor No. L 3771

Born September 17, 1933, Died April 2, 2011


Larger photo image

Larger photo image

Larger photo image


Don was born on September 17, 1933 in the town of Worcester, Massachusetts to Agnes I (Breen) [Photo] and James E. Foley, both of Worcester Massachusetts and later lived at 19 Estabrook Road, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts in the family home built in 1940.


Don attended elementary school [Photo] in Shrewsbury and graduated from Shrewsbury High School (The “Colonials”), Shrewsbury, MA on June 11, 1952. [Diploma]  Quote from his 1952 High School Year Book “The Colonial”A little mischief now and then, is cherished by the best of men. [HS Photo]


Don began his surveying career while still in High School in January of 1951 with Moore Surveying and Mapping Corporation in his hometown of Shrewsbury Massachusetts. Don worked part-time until his discharge from the Army.


In March of 1953 Don enlisted in the United States Army during the Korean Conflict and served stateside from March 6, 1953 to March 5, 1956 with the Army Security Agency. He received his horary discharge with the rank of Specialist Second Class RA. After basic, Don was stationed at Fort Devens, Massachusetts where he met his soon to be wife, Rita. [Wedding announcement]


Don was married to Marie Therese Rita Gagne of Fitchburg, Mass on May 8, 1955 [wedding certificate] and had just celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary prior to her preceding him in life on May 29, 1996. They had four children together, Michael, Barbara, Donna and Ellyn.


After his enlistment ended in 1956, Don returned to Moore Surveying & Mapping Corporation in March of 1956 as an instrument man on a full time basis while earning an AE degree in Civil Engineering at night between out of town assignments (in Baffin Island Canada and an Air Force base out of Tule Greenland.). Don was promoted to party-chief in June of 1959. 


Don attended and on June 12, 1960 received a Degree ofAssociate in Engineering(Civil Engineering) from Worcester Junior College, a private two-year college, located at 766 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, Evening Division.


In October 1960 Don moved his family of three children; Michael, Barbara and Donna (5, 4 and 3 years of age) and his wife Rita from their home on Dewey Street, Worcester, Massachusetts to Fresno, California in a 1957 Chevrolet station wagon borrowed from his childhood and high school friend, David Newton. (Of Mardi Gras and Mexico City* fame). Don left Massachusetts with no job waiting for him, but with assurance from David who had already made the move from MA to Fresno and armed with aTo whom it may concern” letter from Moore Surveying and Mapping Corp., Don and Rita took off on their great adventure determined to make it. The family arrived in the dead of the night at David’s home and quickly put their three little ones to bed along with David and his wife Nancy’s four daughters, (7 to one bead, head, toe, head, toe…). It did not take long for Don to find a job and he accepted a position with J. A. Ross & Associates of Fresno, CA. Don started as a rear chainman, but his experience and training allowed him to quickly move up to the position of Party Chief.


*viewed the “Mardi Gras and Mexico City”. It seems that Don and his childhood friend and fellow Colonial classmate, David Newton took a little trip to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras and returned no one the wiser. A little mischief indeed!


In July 1963 Don resigned from J. A. Ross to accept a position with PG&E’s Land Department. Don once again started at the bottom of the rung as was the custom with PG&E as a rear chainman, but that did not last for very long. At this point Don had over nine years of field experience and a Degree of Associates in (Civil) Engineering.


Don Foley was a Licensed Land Surveyor employed by Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s (PG&E) General Land Office in San Francisco, CA for 24 years and retired as the units Supervisor of Field Engineering. He was responsible for the Company’s survey activities within its service area covering 45 of the 58 California Counties


Don worked as a field Party Chief out of PGandE General Land Office in San Francisco, but was a “based” out of Fresno.


Major projects included establishing the primary field control for the Helms Creek / Lake Wishon power plant project in the Sierra Nevada high country. This involved traveling on horseback into a wilderness area (no helicopters) and camping out.


Don surveyed for many of the high tension power lines that run down the central valley on the west side of I-580 – I 5


Later he was promoted to the position of Senior Field Engineer [PGandE business card] overseeing several field crews spread throughout PGandE’ vast service area.


It was at this time that Don moved the family from Fresno, having lived there since 1960 to Petaluma, CA on October 30th of 1973.  After living in Fresno for 13-years (average rainfall of less than 10-inches) the family was amazed at the amount of rain that could fall in one day. It rained so hard that Don’s youngest, Ellyn could not even go out for Halloween Trick or Treat!


Don loved working for PGandE as it afforded him many avenues for advancement, which he took advantage of. [PGandE training programs] (note that each and every person in this photograph is wearing a suit and tie!)  [Don at far right]


In his position as Supervisor of Field Engineering [PGandE business card], Don was P.G.&E.’s Chief Surveyor, he lead a staff of 42, including 6 Licensed Land Surveyors, 10 survey crews and had functional supervision over 28 survey crews based in P.G.&E.’s 11 operating divisions.


Don served as P.G.&E.’s main Land Surveyor Expert Witness on many cases such as, civil, criminal and condemnations.


Don retired from P.G.&E. in 1987, [PGandE retired card] after 24 years and went into private practice under the company name of Utility Field Services, consulting back to P.G.&E. as well as U.S. Generating Corporation working on projects in California’s San Joaquin and Kern counties, along the U.S. Mexico border as well as New York state offering route design services, Expert Witness Testimony and Court Exhibits. [UFS business card] Don closed his consulting business some time in 2004 to concentrate on his “third” retirement and his grand children.


Don took his California Licensed Land Surveyors exam in 1970, passed and received his certificate number L 3771. [PLS License]


Don became a Corporate Member of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping on February 25, 1972 [Certificate].


On October 14, 1977 during the annual 1977 ASP-ACSM (American Society of Photogrammetrists-American Congress on Surveying and Mapping) California Conference held at the Berkeley Marriott Hotel, Don along with a group of seven other California surveyors helped to establish the Surveyors Historical Society. Don was one of the initial provisional board of trustees and served as co-trustee along with the late Roy Minnick as Membership Chairman. Other co-founders and board of trustees members were the late F. D. “Bud” Uzes, Chairperson; Robert W. Curtis, Vice Chairperson; Myron A. Lewis, Recording Secretary; Michael K. Welch, Treasurer; the late Cecil E. Hanson, Historical Instruments and the late Curtis M. Brown, Historical Deeds and Map Records. A good crowd to be amongst by anyone’s measure!


The purpose and aims of the society were and are to preserve and display history, records, equipment, etc. of survey related occupations including that from land surveying, aerial photography and title companies. The Surveyors Historical Society [] still exists today, some 34 years later with a national and international membership.


Don was an active member of the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping, Northern California Section rotating through the chairs and becoming Chairman in 1979. Plaque


Don often spoke at ACSM conferences on diverse topics such as “Corner Records and Records of Survey” (1979 ACSM California Conference 08/09/1978, later published in Vol. 5, Number 11 March-April 1979 issue of the ACSM-Northern California Section NEWSLETTER) and “Contract Opportunities in Surveying and Mapping for PGandE” 1980 ACSM California Conference 10/25/1980, Sacramento, CA)


Don served as Exhibits Chairman [workshop committee members] for the 1981 ASP-ACSM Fall Technical Meeting held at San Francisco, CA and received special citation for his efforts. [Citation letter] [citation]. This unique convention opened on September 9, 1981 in San Francisco, CA and ran to September 11, closed then reconvened on September 14 to the 16th in Honolulu, HI. [Program cover]


Don became a Corporate Member of the California Land Surveyors Association on December 31, 1981. [Certificate].


Don was also a member of the Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society and became its 6th life member in 1999. Photo of "T" shirt for Life Member. Don was active in helping out at MDSHS events, including their storage trailer move, public display events such as Ardenwood, (Fremont, CA) USGS Open House events (Menlo Park, CA) [Railfair 1999] (Sacramento, CA), often displaying his own equipment. Don also liked to attend their annual summer picnics. [Photo of “what is it” here] [Photo of Don and Cliff Lewis with “what is it”]


Don was not able to attend the Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society’s Sesquicentennial Celebration - July 21, 2001 of the Establishment of the Mount Diablo Initial Point due to a sudden illness, but he was able later with his son Michael to visit the point only once in his life, but he did make it. [Don on the summit of Mt. Daiblo]


Don’s Hobbies:


Computer Programming. Don was a very early user of a “home” computer, and we do not mean an “IBM PC”. Don’s first home computer was a Tandy Corporation (Radio Shack) TRS-80 Color Computer [] (or as it was nicknamed “CoCo” for color computer) introduced in 1980. He wrote and programmed his own accounting software and kept all of his own finical records on it. When did you get your first home computer?



Don was not what you would consider an avid photographer, but due to the nature of his work, often spending time is some of God’s most beautiful country, he always had a camera with him. His favorite camera was an Agfa 35mm “zone” focus model that he purchased at the “duty free” shop while he was in Greenland. If you look past the power generating plants in the photographs, you knew he was in some wonderful places throughout his career.


Don liked to play poker and Cribbage (for money!). Don also enjoyed playing pool with his great grandson, Adam (for hugs).


R.V. travel.

Don purchased 25-Ft Tioga motor home and with his wife Rita and took many cross-country trips including several into Canada, traveling to Banff B.C. and also on the AL-CAN Highway. They also made trips to Yellowstone, Brice Canyon as well as Monument Valley.


Even though both of Don’s parents, Agnes and James were born in Worchester, MA he and his wife, Rita traveled back to the “old country”, Ireland to look up Don’s ancestors (Rita was French Québec).


After Rita’s death in 1996 Don took several long distances trips including a cross-country trip with his sister Dorothy and her husband Jimmy Alvord including a stop at Las Vegas. NV.


Another hobby that Don enjoyed was Genealogy and tracing his family ancestry.


Don liked to fish and even purchased a Sea Nymph fishing boat, took a twelve consecutive weeks U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Boating Skills and Seamanship Course, but did not use his own boat much, preferring to go out with his more experienced neighbor to fish for salmon out of Bodega Bay.


Don sold his Petaluma home of 32 years and moved to Fresno, CA for a short period (2-years) then moved to Floyd VA for a short period (2-years) when in November of 2008 when he returned to Clovis to be near his children, grand children and great grand children. Don and his son Michael took a 10-day cross-country road trip following as much as possible the same route they both took in 1960 (Michael then only 5 years old.) from Massachusetts to Fresno, CA along old route 66.


Don lived his last 15 months at Orchard Park, an assisted living facility in Clovis, CA. Entertainment often included guest entertainers including an Elvis impersonator. Note in this August 20, 2009 photo, Don’s eldest daughter Barbara (l), Elvis and Don(r), Don is wearing his Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society “T” shirt which he loved to wear.


This is the last photo taken of Don with all of his four children at one time on January 17, 2009. Left to right; Ellyn, Barbara, Don, Michael, Donna.


After a long decline in his health Don passed very quickly and peacefully in his sleep on April 2, 2011 at his home in Clovis, California with three of his four children, Michael, Barbara and Donna at his side with his fourth, Ellyn on the telephone at his ear. Many of his grand children were also nearby offering him comfort.


Don was under Hospice care provided by St. Agnes Hospice at the time of his death. His granddaughter Sabrina Hoisington assisted in providing 24-hour care right up to the end. Don received “Last Rites” and was able to participate.


Don was a big believer in a college education and bequeathed a significant sum of money to be used for a scholarships endowment for students enrolled in Land Surveying course work. His son Michael J. Foley, also a Licensed Land Surveyor (PLS 5777) will administer the gift. Interested parties may contribute to this endowment by contacting Michael at


As per Don’s wishes, his body was cremated. His remains will rest at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery, 32053 West McCabe Road, Gustine (Located near the Town of Santa Nella), California alongside his wife Rita for 41 years who preceded him in death in 1996. [Section C-1, Grave Site 393]. Michael was determined to get one of Don’s LS brass tags to be included with the remains, which he did.


A celebration of Don’s life was held on Saturday April 16, 2011 at 10:00 am at Clovis Funeral Chapel, Clovis, CA. Family, friends and a few past PG&E coworkers were in attendance. A military horror guard provided the ceremony’s closing with the playing of taps, the unfolding and refolding of the American flag and it’s presentation to Don’s oldest, Michael.


A lunch reception was followed immediately at Di Cicco’s Italian Restaurant, Clovis, CA. The meal was custom planned to include some of Don’s favorite foods.


A private graveside inurnment service will be held at a later date at the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.


Family condolences and remembrances of Don may be left at or


Don is survived by:


Children (4)

Michael J. Foley, PLS, (wife Lorraine) San Ramon, CA

            Barbara A. Foley, Clovis, CA

            Donna J. Briggs, (husband David) Clovis, CA

            Ellyn M. Mavalwalla, (husband CPT Bajun) Petaluma, CA

Siblings (2)

            Dorothy Alvord (husband Jimmy), Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

            Mary Mack, Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Nieces / Nephews (2)

            Patricia (Tricia) Dzaugis (husband Larry), Villa Ridge, MO

            Clint Alvord, (wife ) Shrewsbury Massachusetts

Grand Nieces / Nephews (3)

            Alyissa Dzaugis, New York, New York

            Chelsea Dzaugis, Villa Ridge, MO

            Nathan Alvord, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Grand Children (9)

            Shawn Briggs, (wife Michelle) Clovis, CA

            Shannon Naron, Clovis, CA

            Sabrina Hoisington, Clovis, CA

            PFC John P. Hoisington III, USMC, Florida

            Donald Hoisington, Clovis CA

            SGT Bajun D. Mavalwalla II, US Army, Pleasant Hill, CA

            Najamai M.Mavalwalla, Petaluma, CA

Veronica Johnson, Oakley, CA

Roxxane Hodgkins, Hayward, CA

Great Grand Children (8)

            Adam Naron, Clovis, CA

Julia Marie Naron, Clovis, CA

Madison Naron, Clovis, CA

Mckenzie Naron, Clovis, CA

Ryan Paul Cardenas, Clovis, Ca

Alyssia Briggs, Clovis, CA

Amanda Johnson, Oakley, Ca

Amy Johnson, Oakley, CA      


Places that Don lived:

Born, Worcester, Massachusetts, September 17, 1933

Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Fort Devens , Massachusetts, 1953-1956

Worcester, Massachusetts, ?-October 1960

Fresno, California, October 1960 -October 1973

Petaluma, California October 1973-August 2004

Fresno, California, August 2004-August 2006

Floyd, Virginia, August, 2006 -November 2008

Clovis, California, November 2008-April 2, 2011

Died, Clovis, California, April 2, 2011






Personal remarks:


Family condolences and remembrances of Don may be left at or


This memorial was written by Michael J. Foley and first published on 04/14/2011 on the Mount Diablo Surveyors Historical Society website, © 2011 - All rights reserved.



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