Donald P. Van Court, 1926 - 2012

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Donald P. Van Court died at home in Madison, New Jersey, on Thursday, November 1, 2012. He was born in New Vernon, New York, in 1926 and moved to Madison with his family as a small child. Don attended Madison schools and graduated with Madison High School's class of 1949.
He served on a destroyer in the US Navy during WW II. He often referred to his Navy time as being "when I was a little boy," since he served two years before his twentieth birthday. Returning, he earned a Bachelor's degree at the Stevens Institute of Technology, where he was a member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity. He was also a member of the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society.
Don received his Master's degree in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell University, where he met his wife, Margery Schmidt. He held licenses as a Professional Engineer in the states of New York and New Jersey.
The Western Electric company employed him for twenty five years, in responsibilities related to integrity of their buildings and factories. After that, Don struck out on his own as a consultant, specializing in non-structural building failure. The State of New Jersey engaged his services regularly, allowing him to claim that he visited "more psychiatric and correctional institutions than any one else except the Governor." He also advised in the preservation of structures important to New Jersey's historical heritage.
Don participated actively in technical and professional societies. He was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), with a particular interest in non-metallic materials used in construction. He was the President of the Metropolitan New York Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI) from 1977 through 1978, and later was elevated to Fellow in the Institute. He published widely in his field, and presented numerous technical papers at international conferences.
From childhood on, he had a deep interest in all things related to trains and railroads, particularly in railroad history. This lead to an interest in the uniform buttons from railways, shipping lines, and other forms of transportation. Based largely on his own button collection and research, he wrote three books linking the design of uniform buttons to the history of the companies they represented. He was also active in the New Jersey Button Society and served as president of the National Button Society.
Not just a parishioner of Grace Church, Madison, Don served as an usher there for many years. At various times, he also acted as treasurer of Boy Scout Troop 125, chaplain in the Chatham chapter of the American Legion, docent at Madison's Museum of Early Trades and Crafts, and volunteer at the Whippany Railway Museum.
In addition to his wife, survivors include four sons and four grandchildren. A funeral service was held at Grace Church, with many family and friends in attendance.

Most of the text for this report is quoted from the Madison Eagle.

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