Well known Long Beach businessman, philanthropist and community leader Don Temple died last Friday after a heart attack.

“He fought the good fight,” wife Marlene Temple said, “just like he always did. We thought he was going to come back home, but he didn’t make it.”

Temple, 85, pioneered the self-storage business, opening the first center in the Los Angeles basin in 1969. He owned or partnered in nine facilities over the years, and still owned three at his death, along with a number of commercial properties, including the Grand Event Center.

He first came to the Long Beach area in 1945 as a member of the Merchant Marines, for training on Catalina Island.

“He called home to say, ‘I haven’t gone to war, I’ve gone to Heaven, and I won’t be back,’” Marlene Temple said.

Temple later served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War.

In addition to his business activities, Temple was very involved in aviation, becoming a licensed pilot in 1961. He often told the story of his participation in 1992 in the Around-the-World Air Rally, flying his own twin-engine Cessna and raising money for Community Hospital.

During that rally, he landed in Moscow and toured Star City with Cosmonaut Igor Volk as his guide. Volk’s translator was teenager Natasha Khrushova, who expressed a desire to come to America. Temple sponsored Khrushova, bringing her back to the U.S., where she earned a BA and master’s degree. She still lives and works in the San Diego area.

Temple was a longtime member of the Long Beach Airport Advisory Commission, representing both private pilots and area business owners. He served on the commission through the debates and planning of the recently completed terminal expansion.

He long was associated with Community Hospital of Long Beach, where he sponsored the Temple Family Cancer Center in honor of his first wife, Ruth, after her death in 1991. Temple played a central role in resurrecting Community after it had been closed in 2000 by Catholic HealhCare West, and served on the board of directors of the new Community Hospital of Long Beach.

Temple married Marlene 14 years ago, and the couple has been constant supporters and participants in charities and arts groups since. They were honored by the Steel Magnolias in 2004, Child Net in 2005, Long Beach City College Foundation in 2010 and the California Conference for Equality and Justice in 2011. They also have been involved in Musical Theatre West, International City Theatre, the Aquarium of the Pacific and Rancho Los Alamitos among other groups.

Temple is survived by his wife, Marlene; daughters Penny and Becky; granddaughter Sumer and her husband Joe; and great-granddaughter Jasmine. A celebration of life is scheduled at 2 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at the Grand Event Center, at Grand Avenue and Willow Street.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Steel Magnolias, 6216 E. Pacific Coast Highway #352, Long Beach 90803; Musical Theatre West, 4350 E. Seventh St., Long Beach 90804; the Temple Cancer Center, 1720 Termino, Long Beach 90804; or any charity of choice.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 20 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 30 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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