The WildFyre Society acknowledges with great sorrow the death of Don King on May 1, 2005. Don succumbed to a months-long battle with end-stage renal disease (kidney failure) associated with diabetes. He was 55. Survivors include both of his parents and a sister, his best friend, “Eddie B.,” who was at his side giving care during Don’s final days, and countless friends from all over.
Don was a key member of the WildFyre Society, creating, organizing, and helping run many events and serving on the Board of Directors of the club as Membership Director. Don brought a special touch to that role, focusing his attention at events on new members to set them at ease and make them feel at home. He was uniquely qualified by inclination, temperament, and experience to be the welcoming face of the WildFyre Society. His colleagues on the WildFyre Board are overwhelmed by his loss.
Born into a military family, Don lived in many places while growing up, but spent much of his adult life in Arkansas, Georgia, and Texas, settling approximately five years ago in Fort Lauderdale. A graduate of the University of Arkansas with a degree in marketing, he worked many years in various aspects of customer service at Delta Airlines, but found his true professional calling as a massage therapist. Don combined his multimodal training, winsome personality, and sense of life's pleasure to build a successful therapeutic practice, confidently transplanting it to South Florida and developing a loyal clientele primarily through word of mouth.
Of course, one of Don's great passions was organized gay social nudism, on which he had a tremendous impact. Attending the Annual International Gathering of Male Naturists, sponsored by Gay Naturists International (GNI), for the first time in 1993, Don and his buddies from Dallas yearned to bring home the deep camaraderie that they had experienced at the retreat in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Don became one of the founders of Dallas Area Male Naturists (DAMN), which is going strong a decade later, with much of the structure and policy that he devised still in place.
Don kept returning each year to the GNI Gathering and getting more involved in the event. As his knowledge and experience grew, he was elected to the GNI Board of Directors in the late 1990s and became GNI's official liaison to gay naturist clubs. Don wrote articles and hosted seminars on club management and development and cheerfully dispensed advice to new and existing clubs to help them grow and prosper. The marked proliferation and blossoming of local clubs in the new century has been aided by Don's gentle nurturing. In recent years, Don also served as Treasurer of GNI.
The WildFyre Society had a genesis at the 1998 GNI Gathering similar to that of the Dallas group a few years earlier, so it was logical for Don to join the WildFyre Board of Directors when he moved to Florida, taking charge of the membership function for his new local club, which was still in its formative stage. The WildFyre Society's spectacular expansion took off as soon as he became involved. Under Don's tutelage, it grew within five years from fewer than 200 members to be the largest local or regional gay naturist club in the world, with more than 1,200 members. Thanks to Don, the organization was able to maintain a personal feel despite its rapid growth.
Don's role at the GNI Gathering continued to expand as Club Liaison. In addition to his GNI Board responsibilities, Don conducted the opening ceremony each year, featuring the Parade of Clubs. As he introduced each club while members proudly marched across the stage and down the runway behind their banner, he would regale the audience with an astonishing recitation of facts and figures, dates, personalities, and anecdotes for that group, all from memory. Don also deftly hosted Club Day each year, facilitating a nuts-and-bolts workshop for club officers to hone their leadership skills and get help with organizational problems.
As Chairman of the GNI Events Committee, Don oversaw efforts to develop additional events besides GNI's signature summer Gathering. Although there were several disappointments as prospective deals for winter/spring events at hotel-based resorts in warm-weather locales did not pan out, Don kept after every contact to explore all possible angles, and remained unfazed by these setbacks. He did have the satisfaction of helping craft plans for GNI's first nude Windjammer cruise in the Caribbean in 2004, on which he sailed, and seeing that success repeated on a larger scale in March 2005, although he was chagrined to have to cancel his participation in the second cruise at the last minute, due to illness.
Apart from his official GNI duties, Don was coordinator of the infamous, "double-wide" Cabin A8, the last cabin and popular stop-off along the main path leading to the disco at the GNI Gathering. With its outrageous themes, over-the-top decorations, infinite drag wardrobe, flowing bar, and nightly parties packed literally to the rafters, the cabin became a Gathering institution, driven largely by Don's instinctive hospitality and flair for the fabulously absurd. Behind the scenes and long before the Gathering, Don would be hard at work to round up previous cabin mates or to recruit new ones for the upcoming retreat. In Florida between Gatherings, Don frequently hosted nude soirées at his home to welcome visiting GNI members.
A celebration of Don’s life was held on Saturday, May 7 at the home of Michael, his neighbor, co-hosted by Eddie B., David (a/k/a “Mona”), and the WildFyre Society. An additional remembrance will occur at the 21st Annual GNI Gathering in August 2005.
Don requested that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in his memory to Gay Naturists International (GNI), the American Diabetes Association (ADA), or the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). We invite those who knew him to share their memories of Don and their feelings about what he meant to them by signing our online memory book, Remembrances of Don King. Click on the book icon, below.
Please join us in keeping Don and his bereaved family and friends in your prayers or meditations.