Donald Custis Dolben.

Donald C. Dolben, 87

June 13, 2024

Donald Custis Dolben, neighbor, bicyclist, and chairman of the Dolben Company, passed away peacefully at home, June 8, 2024, following a week-long inpouring of visits and messages of admiration and gratitude from family and friends, near and far. He was a beloved exemplar, showing throughout his life what he meant when he said: “Be bold. Steady at the helm. Don’t do it if it isn’t fun.” And, as a blessing: “Peace.”

Don was born May 12, 1937, in Somerville, the third child of Alfred H. and Lucile E. Dolben.

Don joined the family real estate business in 1961 and remained active there until his death.

Stewardship, performance, and loyalty — to clients, residents, and employees — are the core values Don embodied and passed down through the generations. His vision and leadership transformed The Dolben Company, Inc. from a small brokerage, appraisal, and management business serving commercial properties in downtown Boston to the regional developer and manager of multi-family communities that it is today. His integrity and commitment to stewardship led to lasting relationships with investors in the ventures he sponsored.

As a leader on non-profit boards, Don championed teamwork, fundraising, and the achievement of possibilities often unimaginable to others. He served as president of the Greater Boston Real Estate Board (1976); Director of UST Corp, the holding company of US Trust; trustee of Suffolk Franklin Savings Bank and Mutual Savings Bank; chairman of the board of trustees of Fisher College and the Northfield Mount Hermon School; and board member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, where he was development committee chair for many years, including for AMC’s Maine Woods Capital Campaign.

Don was a devoted husband and father with his first wife, Trina, until she died in 1985, and with his second wife, Martha, since 1986. While growing the Dolben real estate business, he engaged with his young family as a leader in the Boy Scouts, on the vestry as senior warden at Church of the Good Shepherd, and in community service (Town Meeting, FinCom member) in Reading. From childhood, he knew the joys of Camp Belknap, New Hampshire, and became a lifelong advocate of summer camp. He took to hiking the White Mountains and eventually summited all 48 of the 4,000-foot peaks. He also bicycled across America with his two daughters in 1986. With his grown family and ever-growing circle of friends, Don continued to create group hikes, long bike rides, and travel adventures. We remember with joy many hikes including the Haute Route and Berner Oberland in Switzerland and in the Lake District, England, and many biking journeys, including around Tasmania and along the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Don helped organize summer vespers services on Bridgewater Hill, New Hampshire. Across decades, he always seemed ready to open his wine cellar for a big house party or for a gathering of his tennis buddies of many years.

For the last 38 years, Don provided all manner of support to Martha in her work as co-founder of the 1060 Women’s Studio and Guesswork Partners Press and as long-time chair and executive director of African Food and Peace Foundation. His passing is mourned in Uganda at the campus of Uganda Rural Development and Training Programme, where he is honored as a pillar of hope and transformation.

Don attended Reading High School, Reading, Class of 1954. During college, Don spent one year at MIT, where he bonded with brothers at Phi Delta Theta, friendships he always cherished. He graduated with a B.S. from Tufts University in 1958.

Don is predeceased by his first wife, Catherine (Trina) Kirmayer, his sister Jane Dolben Zimberg, his brother David H. Dolben, and his daughter Victoria (Tory) K. Dolben. He is survived by his wife Martha Harris Pritchard Dolben, his sister-in-law, Virginia Kirmayer Slayton, and his children Andrew Kirmayer Dolben (Mary), Deane Howland Dolben (Lacey), Catherine Jane Dolben, and Zakary Danforth Pritchard. He also is survived by eight grandchildren: Elizabeth Anne Dolben, Margaret Cameron Smith (Andy), Joseph Howland Dolben (Samantha), David Andrew Dolben, Daniel Bruce Dolben (Jessica), Matthew Kirmayer Dolben (Tyler), Teaghan Costello (Meghan), Drexel Costello, and one great-grandchild, Melody Cameron Smith.

A memorial service will be held on June 20, 2024, at 11 a.m. at Church of the Good Shepherd, 95 Woburn Street, Reading. Private interment will be at Bridgewater Old Home Cemetery, Bridgewater, New Hampshire, this summer.

For 26 years, Don rode with Team Dolben in the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), raising funds for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. Recently, he regretted that he was not registered for this year’s ride. In lieu of flowers, we invite you to consider donating to Team Dolben’s 2024 PMC effort or to the charity or summer camp of your choice.

Arrangements under the direction of the Douglass, Edgerley and Bessom Funeral Home, Reading. For online guestbook and directions, visit