Donald Harry Brandsen, who advocated to save the Santa Monica Airport over the last 35 years and served as chairman of the Santa Monica Airport Association Political Action Committee, has died. He was 70.
Brandsen was a man of unwavering commitment, demonstrated in efforts like his decades-long fight in support of the airport against the city of Santa Monica and the Federal Aviation Administration, friends said.
Even his opponents, who “locked horns” with him in battle, respected him completely on a personal level, friends say. He understood and reveled in debate; he never feared a challenge and was graceful in defeat, they said.
Friends added that Santa Monica Airport is a “magical” place as a result of Brandsen’s tireless efforts.
He was born in Chicago on July 14, 1942 and ended up in Southern California by about 1947. Soon after moving to the Westside, Brandsen managed to save his family’s home by mostly putting out a fire of suspicious origins using a garden hose while his parents were gone, friends said.
After attending a military academy (school), Brandsen served a brief stint with the U.S. Navy in Japan, managing to orchestrate an early departure while avoiding a dishonorable discharge.
Upon his return to California, he worked in construction, found it to his liking and eventually became a building contractor.  When he discovered that the plumbers were making more than he was, he promptly switched trades and became a plumbing contractor, thanks to his mentor Bill Shaw, friends said.
He later joined Rotary and became president of a local club.
Brandsen is survived by his daughter Donna Brandsen Gill; granddaughters Tara Lynn and Tamara Angel, Debbie Gibson and Sierra Rose. He was preceded in death by his younger brother William Brandsen, mother Eleanor Estelle and father Edgar Harry.