Donald A. Slaven

Published 2:10 pm Friday, July 16, 2021

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Donald A. Slaven of Harrogate, TN went home to be with The Lord on . He lived a very blessed and long life, and enjoyed what is often called, The American Dream for 86 years. Don was born on February 8, 1935 in Co-Operative, KY and spent his entire childhood growing up in the Blue Heron Mining Community of the Sterns Coal and Lumber Company, which is now a main attraction of The Big South Fork Scenic Railway. He was born to his loving parents Rev. Joseph C. Slaven and Betty Slaven, and loved every day with his 5 brothers, and 3 sisters: George, Cletus, Frank, Burman, Fred Lee, Janice, Jean, and Francis. Don often told stories about his childhood “on the Blue Heron”. His father was the mining superintendent as well as the community Pastor. His mother was a college graduate, which was very rare. In those days, summers were hot, the Cumberland river was cool, ice cream was rare, and he remembered his dad bringing home the first TV into the coal camp.

Don served our great country during the Korean War by enlisting in the United States Air Force in 1951. It was after his return from serving that he fell in love and married the girl of his dreams, Hazel Tapley. The Lord blessed Don and Hazel in every way possible and they built a life that started in the Blue Heron Mining area of KY but eventually settled in Harrogate, TN. It was during those years Don and Hazel were blessed with 3 children: Rick, Mike, and Renee and there wasn’t a birthday, or holiday, or a summer vacation that they didn’t miss together. If you knew Don, you know he enjoyed going to work but more than anything—he loved his family. Hazel preceded Don in death in 1990. Today, in addition to Don’s 3 children, he is blessed with 7 grandchildren, and 9 great grandchildren.

In the days preceding his death, Don said, it was rewarding for him to be able to work and buy his family a home, cars for his children when they were old enough to drive, help pay a little on their first homes, and education. If you knew Don, then you know he had a work ethic that just wouldn’t stop. Don worked as a foreman in the coal mines for 30 years, and travelled all over the country working as a Federal Highway Inspector on several high-profile highway projects for 7 years, of which included the construction of the Tom Lantos Tunnels (Devil’s Slide Tunnels) in Pacifica, CA, a large section of the Natchez Trace Parkway in Natchez, MS, and even a year or so in beautiful Jackson Hole, WY. However, in terms of Don’s working accomplishments he is widely known as one of the most instrumental and influential minds responsible for the construction of the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. Don worked as a Federal Highway Inspector on the construction of the Cumberland Gap tunnel for 17 years—he was there when the first small pilot bore was made through the mountain and had some part of every detail of its construction until its grand opening to the public. Don worked a total of 54 years until he finally retired in 2011 at 76 years old. A few weeks before Don passed, he voiced his last request and this is what he said, “I want my family to know that I love them… please tell everyone, that I love my family.”

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Officiating: Rev. Trevor Bean
Obituary: Brock Allen
Pallbearers: Donald’s Sons, Son-in-Laws, and Grandsons