Date of Birth
Date of Death
Don A. Lee, "Toot",Age 66 of Pinehurst, NC, formerly of Big Rock, IL, passed away Sunday, March 19, 2006 at Moore Regional Hospital, Pinehurst, NC after a brief illness. BORN / EARLY YEARSHe was born September 2, 1939 in Richmond, MO, the son of Donald and Blanche (Merchant) Lee. The family moved to Big Rock where Don grew up and attended local schools. As a boy, he listened to his father and his uncle play the Mandolin and soon discovered that his hands were made for the guitar. Don was musically gifted and could play anything he heard. At fifteen, he and his brother, Ron formed a band, appropriately called, "The Lee Brothers". Not far away, they discovered another musical child prodigy, Jackie DeShannon. She became their lead singer and in time, a famed recording artist in her own right. In 1957, Don and his brother formed the Premiers. Through the years the band was composed of a variety of others that included: Dale Bentley, Ray Rothlisberger, Chico Andes, Gary Endres, Rick Young, Lou Bonye, Ron Norguard and "Speedy Gonzales". The Embers in Elgin was "home" to the band for years and they also played frequently at Fisherman’s Inn near Elburn, and the The Back Door in West Chicago. In 1974 Don formed his own recording label, DAL and shortly thereafter, opened his own club, "The Cabaret" in Hinckley. Though Don was a musician by night, he was a contract painter by day. By 1978 the Premier’s had run their course and Don moved to North Carolina where he settled in Pinehurst and opened the Village Decorator. He loved the country and life was good, but he missed the band. That longing led to the creation of the "Southern Premier’s"! They were a hit and the beat continued for Don. On stage, his personality leapt to life as an entertainer, but privately, Don was a quiet man who enjoyed the solitude of fishing and the simple joy of sharing with family and friends. A die-hard Sox fan, he also loved baseball and was very involved in the creation of Kenny Field in Big Rock. In 2004 on the thirty-year anniversary of the original Premiers first album, Don re-united the band for a concert at his daughter’s farm in Big Rock. To his surprise and delight, hundreds came to listen and the band came to life with a magic that made that night a timeless memory for all. It was a blessing in disguise for in 2005, ill health separated Don from his guitar for most of that year. Remembering the reunion, his brother Ron called home to organize one last bash for Don. It was September as Don returned and found himself with family and friends, at the Big Rock Plow Match. Borrowing a guitar, at the request of a friend, he began to pick out a tune. In a moment, his fingers found their way across the strings as though they’d never left. His family’s wish for one last fire barn concert was granted and the master showman took the home stage one more time to a packed house of his "forever-fans". SURVIVORS He is survived by his wife, Kay (Owens) Lee and their daughter, Darcey Lee (Charlie) DeMercer, all of Pinehurst, N.C. three children by his first marriage to Lynda Beels Brummett:Deborah (John) Ruh Dawn Heiss and Derrin Lee , all of Big Rock, ILEleven grandchildren:Deborah’s: Beth (David) Gottlieb of Sandwich, IL;Zachery Ruh of Hinckley andMelanie Ruh of Big Rock Dawn’s:Joshua, Sean and Drew HeissDerrin’s:Derik and Brittni LeeDarcey’s:TristenSavannah andAmayaTwo great-grandchildren: Erik and Evan Gogglieb;One brother, Ron (Pam) Lee of Pinehurst, NC and One sister, Sherry (Larry) Greer of Somonauk, IL;Many nieces and nephews and a host of friends and fans from far and wide. PRECEDED He is preceded in death by his parents and one nephew Brad Moore. A memorial has been established in Don’s name. Check’s may be made to the Don Lee Memorial and mailed in care of P.O. Box 66, Elburn, IL 60119. Tributes and memories may also be forwarded to the family at the same address or through his obituary at www.conleycare.com.
A memorial service will be held Friday, March 24, 2005 at 4pm at the Big Rock English Congregational Church. The Rev. Brian Henn, will officiate. The family will not receive friends prior to the church service, but all are invited to an "open house" visitation at the Big Rock Fire Department immediately following the service, from 5pm to 8pm. Amidst music, pictures and good food, the family invites you to come with your memories and add to the legend of Don Lee. Arrangements entrusted to Conley Funeral Home. For information call 1-800-8-CONLEY or visit www.conleycare.com.
Private family interment will be held at a later date.