Donald Reay


Donald Reay, MD
May 14, 1937-November 10, 2018

Dr. Donald Reay passed away at his home in Oak Harbor, Wash., on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. He was 81 years of age. Don was born May 14, 1937 in Rock Springs, Wyo., to Thomas and Mary Storey Reay. In his youth, his family moved to Price, Utah, where he attended local schools but finished high school in Cañon City, Colorado at The Abbey School, run by Benedictine monks. Following graduation, he attended the University of Notre Dame where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1959. He entered medical school at the University of Utah and graduated in l963. He completed his internship at the University of Utah hospitals, followed by a residency in pathology. After his residency, he completed a fellowship in forensic pathology sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic. 

In 1968, he entered active military service with the U.S. Air Force and was assigned to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C.  He was a staff member at the AFIP until 1970, when he was then assigned to the Royal Air Force Institute of Pathology and Tropical Medicine in Buckinghamshire, England. In 1972, he returned to the U.S., at the Air Force Academy in Colorado, and was the director of laboratories at the USAF Academy hospital. He left the service in 1973 with the rank of Lt. Colonel.

After separating from the service, he came to Seattle and took the position of Deputy Medical Examiner for King County, Wash. In 1975, he became chief medical examiner, and was in this position until his retirement in June of 1999. While medical examiner, he also was a regular faculty member of the University of Washington, Department of Pathology, where he pursued his investigative interests in asphyxia and deaths in custody. He authored and co-authored some fifty publications relating to forensic pathology and death investigation. While medical examiner, he established a forensic pathology fellowship training program for pathologists affiliated with the University of Washington, and gave lectures and national seminars in forensic pathology. He was on the editorial board of two forensic journals. He separated from the University of Washington as Emeritus Professor at the time of his retirement from King County. He also earned a masters degree in public administration at Seattle University in 1978.

While in King County, Dr. Reay participated in a variety of regional and national organizations. In 1984, he was appointed to the Washington State Forensic Investigation Council by Gov. Booth Gardner and chaired the council until his retirement. He was past president of the Washington State Pathology Association, past president of the National Association of Medical Examiners and an active member of the American Academy of Forensic Science, the College of American Pathologists, Washington State Medical Society, King County Medical Society and the American Medical Association. Locally, he was past president of the Seattle First Hill Lion’s Club and a member of the Knights of Columbus in Oak Harbor. 

Dr. Reay was actively involved in the U.S. Army Reserve during most of his medical career in Seattle. He was a member of the U.S. .Army Reserve 50thGeneral Hospital at Fort Lawton, where he was in charge of the hospital laboratory. In 1989, he became commander of the 6250th USAR Hospital in Tacoma. In 1990, his unit was activated for Desert Storm, and he was on active duty for four months, supporting Madigan Army Medical Center. After completing this assignment, he was briefly commander of the 50th USAR General Hospital during its deactivation. He retired from the military in 1995 with the Legion of Merit citation.

Dr. Reay had a variety of interests, including fishing and books. Throughout his life, he was interested in literature and philosophy, and in how things work. Following his retirement, he took classes in topics ranging from marine technology to New Testament history and interpretation.

He is survived by his wife of 55+ years, Judith Reay (nee Pexton), an accomplished musician and artist; sons Brendon, Sean, and Laurence; daughter Elise, and five grandchildren. 

In lieu of flowers, please extend your generosity in Don’s memory to St. Augustine Catholic Church, 185 N Oak Harbor Street, Oak Harbor, WA 98277 or your local food bank.

A funeral mass was celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 17 at St Augustine Catholic Church in Oak Harbor, WA.  

Arrangements were entrusted to Wallin Funeral Home, Oak Harbor. To leave messages or condolences for the Reay family, please visit Don’s Book of Memories page on the funeral home website at