Donald Everett Axinn, a resident of Sands Point, died on Tuesday, Oct. 13 following a brave battle with cancer. He was 80 years old.
Mr. Axinn spent 50 years as a developer, writer, philanthropist and filmmaker. His parents emigrated from Russia during the Pogroms. A first-generation American, he built the Axinn name into one of the most respected with regard to building and investing in the New York metropolitan area. He designed and developed several million square feet of award-winning buildings and office parks before merging in 1999 with Brandywine Realty Trust, a NYSE company. He sat on their board of trustees for many years.
Mr. Axinn authored twelve volumes of poetry as well as several articles, and his essays were published in The New York Times and Newsday, among others. He wrote three novels, Allan, Burning, Spin and The Ego Makers. Mr. Axinn’s first novel, Spin, was produced as a full-length feature film. James Redford wrote the screenplay and directed, and Mr. Axinn served as producer. Redford has completed a screenplay based on Allan, Burning, which is currently being presented to production companies and financiers. He will direct this film as well.
Mr. Axinn was a prolific poet, and loved reading his work to enthralled audiences. He enjoyed the honor of a presentation before the U.S. Library of Congress, the United Nations and in Russia, as well as hundreds of schools, bookstores, universities and private gatherings. Mr. Axinn was a Tennessee Williams Fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He has been listed in Who’s Who in America every year since 1974 and was awarded several humanitarian citations. He was particularly proud of the work he did with the Cradle of Aviation Museum, and was preparing to present the Donald E. Axinn Community Service award to his best friend, Long Island businessman Leo A. Guthart at the Cradle’s annual gala on Oct. 22.
Mr. Axinn firmly believed that education was the key to success. His foundation supports organizations dedicated to education, including the American Indian Fellowship program at the University of Montana Law School – designed to encourage law students to study – and remain to practice in – Montana. The Foundation also funds the Axinn Community Leadership Scholars program at Southern Vermont College.
Mr. Axinn was an associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and director of the Institute of the Arts at Hofstra University, where he served as Trustee Emeritus until his death. He holds five honorary doctorates from Middlebury College, Hofstra, Adelphi, Southern Vermont College and SUNY at Farmingdale. He has been a Writer-in-Residence at Middlebury and the University of Maine.
Mr. Axinn was one of the founders of the Interfaith Nutrition Network, which houses and feeds the hungry and homeless. He served as a director and/or trustee for numerous public organizations, among them The Nature Conservancy, Poets & Writers, The Academy of American Poets, and Friends for Long Island’s Heritage. He most recently was a Trustee at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where he funded the Donald E. Axinn Cancer Research Laboratory.
Much of Mr. Axinn’s life revolved around flying. He owned dozens of small and mid-sized aircraft over the years, and took great pleasure soaring over the Adirondacks, the south shore and east end of Long Island and over the Everglades in his Boeing Stearman, Top Dog War Bird and Waco biplane. He always said he did some of his best thinking up among the clouds. As one good friend put it, “Don was certainly captain of his own ship. He directed his own course – and that is how he made so many positive things happen.”
He leaves behind Joan, his beloved wife of 41 years, his children Meredith Axinn, Allison Axinn, Michael Axinn and Jennifer Axinn Weiss; his stepchildren Peter Bauer and Jamie Bauer; six grandchildren – Morgan Axinn Cattai, Lucien Axinn Cattai, Anastasia Axinn-Faeravaag, Zahra Axinn, Tallulah Axinn, Grayling Bauer, and Elon Bauer; his sister, Nadine Heyman, his daughters-in-law Marlene Axinn and Nancy Bauer and sons-in-law Michael Hydock, Michael Weiss and many nephews, nieces and friends.
Don was a gift to so many people, and requested that donations be sent to The Interfaith Nutrition Network and toward cancer research at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
A funeral service was held at Gutterman’s Memorial Chapel in Woodbury on Thursday, Oct. 15, followed by graveside services at Mt. Ararat Cemetary in Farmingdale.