Although he is gone, if you listen, you can still hear Doug Austin’s resounding greeting of “Good day, My Lady,” and his easy laughter echoing through our forest. He was a rare soul, a renaissance man whose heart beat with kindness, generosity, wisdom, grace and goodwill. Doug transitioned peacefully from this world on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, at age 74. His legacy will live ever on in our hearts and through the indelible impact he made on our mountain communities.
Born Douglas Coleman Austin in 1947 to Scottish-English parents of humble means, Horace and Mary Austin of Los Angeles, Doug was a self-made man.
A 35-year resident of Idyllwild-Pine Cove who worked tirelessly to enrich our mountain communities, he was affectionately proclaimed the Mayor of Idyllwild. He always had kind, encouraging, inspiring words for others. He was a generous philanthropist to several Idyllwild organizations — including Idyllwild Help Center, Idyllwild Community Fund, Stratford Players, Rotary and more — and served on boards of directors, and in an advisory capacity, over the years.
He founded the Doug and Mary Austin Charles Dickens Poster and Essay Contest at Idyllwild School to promote children’s literacy, and also the SmARTS program, for which was twice bestowed upon him the Good Apple Award by Hemet Unified School District. His many philanthropic activities included the Mary Austin Memorial Award, given in conjunction with the Idyllwild Soroptimists, to women in the community in need. The Mary Austin Foundation has also funded in perpetuity nine grants through the Idyllwild Community Fund.
He also contributed to children’s literacy programs at Idyllwild Library. Some of the volunteer highlights he enjoyed most every year were overseeing the Green Room at the jazz festival, hosting Summer Concerts in the park (which he sponsored with wife Pat), emceeing the annual Christmas Tree Lighting, and participating in the Fourth of July parade.
After retiring from his career as vice president, Land ’O Lakes Corporation, Doug dove into his passion for the performing arts. An avid thespian and consummate Falstaff, he founded the Olde English Theatre Company, and had an intimate scholarly knowledge of Charles Dickens and Shakespeare’s work, through further theater training in LA.
Beyond Idyllwild, he was president of the Riverside Dickens Festival for 12 years, a master greeter for Riverside County Renaissance Faire for 10 years, and taught overcoming stuttering at CalState Fullerton for 10 years. He was featured in the PBS documentary series “The Leading Generation,” which followed the lives of retirees who reinvent themselves. In his spare time, he enjoyed travel, and reading his beloved Shakespeare and Dickens.
His trademark mixture of love of mankind, energy, wit and theatrical skill brought us productions like his “Dickens, Douglass and Hope,” an imaginative re-enactment of Dickens’ meeting with African-American intellectual giant and abolitionist Frederick Douglas. Doug also spoke as Dickens on the subject of women’s suffrage and equal rights. His purpose was always to foster honor, decency, and fairness in the treatment of all people.
With a bachelor’s in theater from CalState-LA, Doug discovered acting was a way of conquering his challenge with stuttering, from a stroke — often sharing that when he was on the stage, his stutter evaporated.
Those who knew him best, however, recognized that behind this was the hallmark determination, energy and hard work for which he was known.
He is survived by his loving wife Pat Austin; sons Jim (Mary) and Jeff (Germaine); brother Jim (Laurel); stepsons Paul Garza (Christie) and Israel Hernandez; and grandchildren Nathan Patterson Austin, Sarah Austin, Nicolas Garza, Valerie Garza and Lydia Hernandez.
No services are planned. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in his name to the Idyllwild Help Center, P.O. Box 660, Idyllwild, CA 92549, and The Rotary Club, P.O. Box 152, Idyllwild, CA 92549.