Don Vanderbeek, former Dayton Daily News art director, dies in California

Donald William Vanderbeek, a former art director for the Dayton Daily News, died at his home in Malibu, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 31, from esophageal cancer. He was 64.

In 1995, after 15 years at the newspaper, Vanderbeek moved to California, where he worked with animation studios such as MGM, Hannah Barbara, Nickelodeon, Disney and The Simpsons. His illustrations ranged from children’s books and conceptual storyboards for movies to national magazines.

“He was Beek to everyone who knew him,” said Randy Palmer, who worked with Vanderbeek at the newspaper and said his friend’s work defined newspaper illustration in the 1970s and ’80s. “His work was recognized nationally and he received the industry’s top awards. Don’s artistic talents were only surpassed by his sense of humor and his devotion to his family and friends.”

Vanderbeek was born in Dearfield, Ill., the son of a Presbyterian minister. He received a bachelor’s degree from The School of the Dayton Art Institute in 1972 and then went to work at Graphics Three in Dayton.

His son, Jon, said his father knew no strangers.

“You knew you were marked when you were called one of his many terms of endearment such as “honey-sweety,” “peaches-and-cream pie face” and “tootsala,” said Jon Vanderbeek, who lives in Michigan. “He was very generous with his art, always creating a card or a painting for someone in particular. All were welcome in his home — which he described as a museum. From geodes, fossils and civil war artifacts to his beloved library of art, film and naturalist books, he took great care in all of them.”

Vanderbeek is survived by his two sons, Karl (Rhonda) Vanderbeek and Jon (Sarah) Vanderbeek, and granddaughters Anna, Annika, Ella and Hannah. Other survivors include brother Randy (Patti) Vanderbeek and sister Nancy Elliott as well as many nieces and nephews. A private memorial service is planned.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate tax deductible contributions made to “The Muse Machine: Carrie Vanderbeek Scholarship Fund.” The scholarship, which helps young students pursue the arts, was created in memory of Don Vanderbeek’s niece who tragically died in 1993 at the age of 16. Donations can be mailed to 7205 Stiver Road, Germantown, OH 45327.