Don Hingst — a La Cañada resident loved and respected for his long tenure as a La Cañada Unified school principal and his deep philanthropic contributions — died peacefully last week, family members said. He was 86.
Those who knew him described Hingst as a fun-loving, faith-driven man whose commitment to his family, students and the wider La Cañada community was legendary.
“He loved kids and never wanted to progress any higher than principal, because he didn’t want to be away from the kids,” recalled daughter and La Cañada Elementary School teacher Barb Drange. “He cared about each and every person as an individual.”
Hingst joined LCUSD in 1969, teaching at Paradise Canyon Elementary School for two years before taking an assistant principal position at Foothill Intermediate School for one year. He then became principal of La Cañada Elementary School and stayed there 16 years.
In 1987, when the district reopened Palm Crest Elementary, Hingst took the helm and served until his retirement in 1992. Palm Crest Office Manager Kerry Russel remembered he lived just down the street from the campus.
“After every open house he would literally open his home for all the teachers to come over, unwind and have dinner,” she said. “He was the most genuine and loving man.”
Hingst brought the same level of compassion to community service, co-founding in 1993 the La Cañada Kiwanis AM club (which he attended the morning of his Oct. 31 death) and delivering baked goods to area pantries and homeless shelters. He also started the city’s annual Memorial Day service and ran that for many years.
He and wife Shirley, who’d been married 60 years before her passing in 2016, played Santa and Mrs. Claus at the local chamber of commerce’s Festival in Lights celebration and were honored as the Kiwanis Club’s “La Cañadans of the Year” in 2000, two years after serving as grand marshals in the chamber’s Fiesta Days parade.
The couple picked up acting during retirement and appeared in several commercials together, said friend Martha Burns.
“He just had that face that seemed like a grandpa face — he loved doing it,” she said, recalling Hingst’s glee at receiving commercial proceeds.
Former school board member Jeanne Broberg, who met Hingst while serving as PTA president at La Cañada Elementary, recalled him as “truly a man of Christian values.” LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said Friday he would be truly missed.
“Don Hingst was a beloved LCUSD administrator — a principal who served both the PCR and LCE communities and who will forever remain in their hearts and as an integral piece of the fabric of the LCUSD community,” she said.
Hingst is survived by children Lori McClaury and husband Scott; Jenny Crone and husband Jim; Jill Evans and husband Tim; and Barb Drange and husband Phil, and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by wife Shirley; brother Hal Hingst; and parents Rev. Reinhold and Irma Hingst.