Cover photo for Donald Cairns's Obituary

Donald Cairns

Donald Cairns, age 90, passed away on June 15, 2022. Donald was born on August 7, 1931, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The eldest son of Stewart Scott Cairns and Kathleen Hand Cairns, Donald’s childhood followed his father’s rising career as a mathematics professor through the university towns of Bethlehem PA, Flushing NY, and Syracuse NY. Donald graduated from Harvard College in 1952. He served as an intelligence officer in the Navy until 1955. After entering the Naval Reserves, he obtained his J.D. in 1958 from The Ohio State University, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Ohio State Law Journal and a member of the Order of the Coif.

Donald began his 61-year law career at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in Cleveland, Ohio, concentrating in trusts and estates. He passed the Florida State Bar to better serve Cleveland retirees. Listed in Best Lawyers, Who’s Who in American Law, and Chambers High Net Worth, Don received the Estate Planner of the Year award in 2002 from the Estate Planning Council of Cleveland. Don became a director and shareholder at Spieth, Bell, McCurdy & Newell in 1995 after having been a partner for many years at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. He retired in 2019 at age 88.

Don was an icon in the local and national legal communities and in the professional lives of his colleagues. He was loved and respected by fellow lawyers and clients. He mentored the careers of many younger lawyers, from teaching them how to decipher the technical nuances of the generation-skipping transfer tax to setting a shining example of how to lead a client through a difficult discussion about sensitive family issues. His legacy will live on through the client families who benefited from his brilliant estate planning and through the many lawyers who still start out solving a legal problem with the thought: “Now what would Don do here?”

Don’s love of the law was matched by his passion for advancing Cleveland’s civic organizations. Don served on many professional and charitable boards. He served as a Regent of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel from 1992 to 1998, was a member of the Ohio State Bar Association’s Estate Planning Probate and Trust Law Council for more than 20 years, and sat on the Advisory Committee of the Heckerling Estate Planning Institute for more than 30 years. Among his charitable board activities, Don served as President of the City Club of Cleveland Foundation, President of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, Secretary of The Union Club Foundation, Secretary of Bluecoats of Cleveland, and served on the boards of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, Cuyahoga County Library Foundation, National Machinery Company, Bratenahl 100, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden.

Donald is survived by his beloved wife of 34 years, Alice (nee Crout); his children Doug (Angie), Tim, and Heather (Ann Barton); his grandchildren Emily (Mark) Mudarth, Scott (Jasmine), Jeff, Cooper, Ava, and Annalise; and his great-grandchildren Owen Mudarth, Elias Mudarth, and Lily Cairns; and his brother Charles (Helen). Don was predeceased by his daughter Pamela in 2018.

A memorial service will be held on July 22 at 11 AM at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church,

2747 Fairmount Boulevard, Cleveland Heights

, reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, contributions are encouraged to Piano Cleveland:

. Personal condolences may be sent to the Cairns family in care of Doug Cairns, at

1600 S 1st St, Unit 323, Austin TX 78704


Donald was kind and fair to all who knew him. He will be sorely missed.
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Donald Cairns, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, July 22, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Central time)

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