July 28, 1936 ~ December 20, 2020

Born in: Hartford, CT
Resided in: Wallingford, CT

On the evening of December 20, 2020, Donald Perkins Relyea passed away peacefully at Masonicare at Ashlar Village in Wallingford. Don was survived by his wife Jo-Ann Cooper-Relyea. They were happily married for 61 years. Norwalk, CT was their home for 45 years before retiring in Westbrook. Don and Jo-Ann enjoyed being out on the water sailing with their friends and daughters, square dancing, traveling, and family gatherings.

Don grew up in Massachusetts. He attended Boston Latin School for Boys, and graduated from Wellesley High School. In his youth, Don had many interests. He learned to sail on the Charles River. He built his own ham radio and learned Morse code. In 1954, he won two awards for his ham radio station’s (W1VVA) communications during Hurricane Edna. Don met Jo-Ann at UCONN, where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

Don co-founded Hoffrel Instruments Inc., which was one of the first companies to develop cutting edge, ultrasonic, diagnostic, medical equipment for doctors and hospitals. He could build or fix nearly anything.  In the mid-sixties, he built his own 21-foot runabout, aptly named “Finely Finished.” Don spent many years fostering German shepherd puppies for the Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation. He also enjoyed square dancing in clubs throughout Fairfield County with his beloved wife.

Don’s true passion was sailing. Many, many memories were created on his first yacht, Terror racing and cruising on the Sound. In 1978, a 27-year partnership with his friend Fritz emerged, co-owning yacht Dyad. This partnership proved “a force to be reckoned with” in the racing community on Long Island Sound. Don served as Commander of the Norwalk Power Squadron, teaching safe boating and navigation courses. He served as Norwalk Harbor Master. Don managed his own “Yacht Service” business, specializing in corrosion mitigation, for many years. Don was an active member of the Corinthians, and a life member of Mystic Seaport. He shared his passion for racing and cruising with his family.

Don enjoyed spending summers on Panther Pond in Maine relaxing with Jo-Ann and his daughters. One would often find Don reading tons of books, diving off the end of the dock for a cool swim, and enjoying tootling around the lake in his Boston Whaler. Not only in Maine, but anywhere, Don took great pleasure in walking his dog, having on his mind the hope he would spot a friend to engage in intellectually stimulating conversations.

Don was born July 28, 1936 in Hartford, CT to Charles Worthington and Ruth E. Perkins Relyea. He is survived by his wife, Jo-Ann, and their three daughters and sons-in-law: Sarah Ann and Robert Kline of Norwalk, Rebecca and David Wicke of Fairfield, and Lisa and George Ciccone of Fairfield. He is also survived by eight grandsons and one granddaughter: Grady (Janan) Kline of Milwaukie, OR; Bridget Kline (Benjamin) Boger, Trevor Kline, and Cooper Wicke of Norwalk; Taylor (Linnea) Wicke of Morrison, CO; twins Eric and Mark Ciccone and Casey Ciccone of Denver, CO; and Wesley Ciccone of Fairfield. In addition, Don was blessed with two great-grandsons: Henry David and Jack Relyea Boger of Norwalk.  

Don will be lovingly remembered for his witty words of wisdom, whistling, humming, and his formal telephone greeting…“Donald P. Relyea speaking.” Don’s gift of gab and caring ways made him ready and willing to lend a helping hand to anyone. 

A memorial service will be held privately at a later date. Contributions can be made to:  Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, 34 Washington Street Suite 310, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481 or Masonicare Charity Foundation, P.O. Box 70, Wallingford, CT 06492. 

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  1. I met Don at Hoffrel Instruments in about 1983. He hired me on as one of his Field Service Engineers. I remember him as a very nice man who always had time for his employees’ concerns. I seem to recall him being a happy-go-lucky man who had the respect of his employees. My sincere condolences go out to Lisa, who was a co-worker for a little bit, and the entire Relyea family. I know he will be deeply missed.

  2. I worked with Don Relyea for years at Trans-Lux Corp. He was always a pleasant fellow and a pleasure to work with. I send my sympathy and condolences to his family.

  3. Dear Jo-Anne, I was so sorry to learn of Don’s passing. We shared sailing and Fidelco Guide Dogs and I have such nice memories of you both. Please accept my sincere condolences. With fondness, Ken Bernhard.

  4. Don served with high distinction as the Executive Secretary of The Corinthians for many years. He and JoAnne were magnificent help to the Afterguard during a very productive era. He was always willing to take on any challenge that would better our Association and he did so with great humor and talent. He shared ownership of a racer with PM Fritz Schweitzer and the two-family crew cleaned the clocks of other racers, always with gentleperson style and good humor. What a treasure to our Corinthian family
    Alice Mutch. PM

  5. Don served with high distinction as the Executive Secretary for many years. He and JoAnne were magnificent help to the Afterguard during a very productive era. He was always willing to take on any challenge that would better our Association and he did so with great humor and talent. He shared ownership of a racer with PM Fritz Schweitzer and the two-family crew cleaned the clocks of other racers, always with gentleperson style and good humor. What a treasure to our Corinthian family
    Alice Mutch. PM

  6. Jim Miller,
    Back in about 1965 or 1966, Don and his partner Russ gave me the opportunity of a life time.. They took a chance and hired me, and taught me how to sell Ultrasound medical equipment. Why they took that chance, I’ll never know why, but it opened a door into medical sales that probably saved my life. And gave me a Future. Back in those days, Medical Ultrasound, was a new idea and Hoffrel built the best and most reliable product on the market. Without the opportunity that they gave me, I hate to think what would have happened to me. Because I had No education, Just out of the Navy and had spent 4 years as a ski bum. I was going nowhere. I owe Don and Russ my life.

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