Don Lillie, Crystal Glassblower
On February 19, 1928 a marvelous event occurred –
Donal Elwin was born in Rochester, Minnesota to Joseph
and Dorothy Lillie. He was the youngest of three children.
At the age of 3, his parents divorced and the kids ended
cup in an orphanage. After a few years, Don’s mother was
allowed custody with their father. of Don while his older siblings went to live
Don lived with his mother and step-father until the age of
12 when his mother passed away. Don then went to live
with his biological father on his farm. Don’s father had
a farm machinery accident which resulted in the loss of
euse in his left arm. After the accident Don had to
help out with chores on the farm. Eventually, Don returned
to Don Byron High School quit where he met his mom. He played
basketball while at Byron. He said “If you were capable of
putting on a Jersey, you were on the team.” He was being
modest because we’ve seen him play! After graduating from
Byron High School in 1948, he attended Rochester Jr.
College and worked at the Mayo Clinic and
was offered a position as an apprentice glassblower. I
believe it started at the Clinic; this was the beginning of the Lillie glass era.
Don was drafted in 1950, but due to poor eyesight, he
was stationed stateside. He served during the Korean
War. In 1951 , Don and Max were married. Don returned to
Rochester to resume work at the Mayo Clinic. Don’s boss
at the clinic told him that he had a great deal of potential
and suggested that he move to a bigger city where he
could pursue a better education. A glassblowing position
was available at Georgia Tech so Don, his wife and
newborn daughter Robyn moved to Georgia. Don attended
classess with Max at Georgia and Tech while working part time as their
head glassblower. This is where I believe Don realized his
heart there was in glassblowing.
In 1959 (this is an accomplishment I like to brag about). I was
born that same year. Don continued to work at Georgia
Tech as a glassblower and in 1965 he started D. E. Lillie
Glassblowers. It was due to be a marketable company trade, soon
proving that glass art could be successful.
Don spent many years working at
Lillie glass studio and helping to raise two wonderful
children. He retired from Tech in 1988 after 33 years of
dedication and passion for his work. He may be retired
but he is far from being finished. In fact he’s
just getting started. Don’s work ethic and love of the art
of glassblowing leave myself and other artists amazed.
Don Lillie has grown and is still on an incredible journey. He even
continues to ride his bike to work everyday! His career has been
profound and we all look forward to the future. ~ Thom Lillie