Don Ingraham: 1937 – 2008

Posted: December 13th, 2008

Dad always loved taking care of the house. Here he is sweeping the front porch of the Alameda house just months after the remodel.

I’m not a great writer by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt it necessary to put something up here. Don Ingraham, or Dad as I used to call him, was a truly great person, touching so many people’s lives and making me into the Dad I am today. He passed away yesterday, December 12th 2008, at the age of 71 after a 6 year battle with Alzheimer’s.

When I learned that Dad had Alzheimer’s, I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t know much about the disease and couldn’t tell any changes in him over the phone. It wasn’t until I came home for Thanksgiving in 2002 that I was able to spend some time with him and my Mom and realize exactly what was going on.

Alzheimer’s is a bitch. It must be the worst disease to attack a family there is. Car accidents, Cancer, they all suck. But with Alzheimer’s, you have to watch your Dad slip away, one day at a time. I mourned for him once already when I knew my Dad was gone. Now I’m going through it again.

If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s this. For the last 5 years after caring for my Dad and watching him leave us, all my memories were of him with the disease; forgetting who I am, forgetting to eat, forgetting how to take care of himself. Since he passed, all I can think of are the good times we had together; the trips to Disneyland, the mornings he’d bring me to hockey practice, the way he raised us. Watching old videos and scanning in old photos the last 24 hours has really left a great memory inside. I can finally mourn him properly.

The Life of Donald Ingraham

Don was born on September 19th, 1937 in Berkeley, CA. At the time he had a brother, George, and his parents Aubrey and Bill, and later gained a sister, Marjorie. They lived in Oakland, CA for most of his life.

Here’s Don in Korea (I think) while a 1st Lt Judge Advocate. He eventually made the rank of Captain and was stationed in the Pentagon.

In 1950 he went to Oakland High School where he was a classmate of Frank Oz and David Carridene. He picked up a love for puppeteering and magic and was one of the creative designers behind Children’s Fairy Land in Oakland. He went to college at UC Berkeley graduating with his JD and passing the State Bar exam in 1962.

In 1963 Don was drafted by the US Army as a 1st Lt Judge Advocate. The army took him through Georgia, Virginia, Korea, Vietnam and finally ended up in Washington DC as a Captain assigned to the Pentigon. He left the Army in 1967, returned home to Oakland and joined the District Attorney’s office.

This picture of the family was probably taken in 2001. It’s at the Sugar Shack in Huntington Beach, CA. We’re probably having breakfast before heading off to Disneyland for the day.

Don stayed active with theatre and design and eventually met Terry during a performance. They married in 1974, moved to Alameda and had two boys, Lawrence and Andrew. Terry owned a dance studio and expanded it to include children’s theatre, which Don did the logo design and assisted with the sets. The studio has since relocated to Campbell, CA.

Don retired from the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in Oakland, CA in 2001 where he lead the High-Tech Crime Team and was the host of the Video Unit. Over his 30+ year run with the DA’s office, he was responsible for creating a multitude of laws and policies for handling computer crime, years before the internet. He is probably most well known on the internet for his appearance on the Geraldo Rivera show back in 1992, where he defended the government’s stance on prosecuting hackers.

Here’s a clip from 1991 presenting to the Computer Security Conference in Miami. This was probably when he was at the top of his game, and what he teaches in this segment about social engineering and network security is still being taught today.

That’s the man you’ll find if you Google him. But that doesn’t tell you much about him as a person. I’m hoping I can share that side of him with you now.

My Dad

The one thing I remember most about my Dad was his sense of humor. He’s the guy that keeps a rubber pig nose in the glove compartment so if he pulls up at a red light next to a car full of kids he can put it on. He taught me the trick while waiting in line at Disneyland you can unlink the red rope from the pillar and connect it to someone’s pocket. I hope that someday I can be on par with him.

Don was a master doodler. He admired the works of Mort Drucker, Paul Coker and Walt Kelly to name a few.

Illustrations were always a big thing for him. I always saw him doodling on something, napkin, tablecloth, menu, etc. He had a great eye for designing things that were easy to recognize and memorable. He’s actually the guy that designed the flag for the City of Alameda. I remember the year that the flag was introduced; during the 4th of July, he bought out all of the little flags he could find. I wish I had one still.

He always had love of teaching. Watching these videos, I’m in awe at how polished he is at articulating a point and keeping an audience’s attention. Most of all, he loved teaching kids. He was active in the Boy/Cub scouts and was a sunday school teacher at our church growing up. Every lesson would someone turn into a craft project, hands on learning.

Disneyland was his favorite place to be. This is the souvenir leaf fromt he Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse I bought for him one year.

Disney was a huge part of his life. He had a collection of old Disneyland maps, dating back to the first year it opened in 1955. When we used to go to the park, I remember the two of us making fun of the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, so much so that when they eventually closed it down to remodel into Tarzan, I bought him a leaf for his library. I’m fortunate enough to have that leaf now, and an animation cell from Puff the Magic Dragon, in my office.

He loved books, books were everywhere in his life. He could spend hours at a book store, even a small store with only a few hundred books needed a visit. I remember how he’d perk up whenever one would come in sight and start saying “book book book” over and over like a chicken. Funny that I really have to force myself to sit down and read.

A Lasting Impression

I’ve put together an album of photos I found around the house that were special to me. I’ll be adding to it if I find anything else, something like a gallery of all the great memories I have of my Dad.

I’ve also set up a YouTube channel for any videos I find of him. There’s only a few up there now, and obviously the material is out of date, but you can see what a master of presentation he was.

I’ll leave you with my favorite, the closing sequence from his retirement show with the DA’s office. It’s based on one of his favorite movies “A Field of Dreams”. I’m not really sure why he loved that movie so much. Maybe it’s James Earl Jones, he always loved his voice. Or maybe it’s the idea that after we’re done here, there’s a better place in the field where you can relax. I’m sure he’s there now, in the cornfields with his Pig nose firmly attached.


Lawrence I’m sorry to hear about your father. Overall, it’s a better place he’s in now. I watched my grandfather battle Alzheimer’s for many years it’s tragic what something can do to the people you once knew. Every time I think about your dad, it was him tooling around Alameda in that ancient Volvo : ) used to make me smile. You’ll be in my prayers-J

Comment by Jennifer Pancoe 12.13.08 @ 5:50 pm

What a thoughtful, kind, and loving tribute to your dad. I’m very sorry you had to watch him go through such an evil disease and I’m sorry Max won’t know her wonderful grandpa. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

Comment by Kristan Gainey 12.13.08 @ 6:16 pm

This is a wonderful tribute, Lawrence. I am sorry that you lost your dad. It isn’t fair. I loved him very much, he was the very best uncle that a little girl could wish for. He’s the reason why I’m an avid reader and lack all self control in bookstores. There’s a lot of good stuff that I can point a finger back at and say, “That was from Wicked Uncle Donald.” Thanks for sharing him like this. You know, I’d totally forgotten the pig nose.

We’re thinking of your family. You have our condolences and lots of good thoughts.

Comment by Rainy 12.13.08 @ 7:59 pm

That was some thing else. I am in total tears. Thank you for the memories.

Comment by mom 12.13.08 @ 9:27 pm

I am saddened to here of your loss; you have shared part of his greatness to us which explains where you get yours. God Bless.

Comment by Lionel 12.13.08 @ 11:06 pm

Lawrence, I’m so sorry for your loss. I know that your father’s memory will live on through those that loved him. Max will know him through you and your stories and tribute. I know Amanda and Max benefit daily from the way he influenced you and brought you up. God bless you and your family during this time of mourning.

Comment by Jean Bong 12.14.08 @ 12:03 am

Don was the smartest guy I ever knew. Most talented too. Ironically I’m in Disneyland now as I write this. This was a favorite spot for him. We talked many hours together of our adventures here. He loved his work. He loved his books, but he loved his two boys the best. Lawrence, he loved ‘field of dreams’ most because it is a father and son film. We both teared up at the end of the film when we watched it together once. He loved you boys more than anything in this world. Hold those memories for him. I will miss those good times I had with him. God bless him.

Comment by art garrett 12.14.08 @ 1:41 pm

This is beautifully written Lawrence. He sounds like a wonderful man. Thank you for sharing! Take care, we are thinking of you. Love, Eileen

Comment by Eileen 12.14.08 @ 3:29 pm

Wonderful tribute Lawrence. Thanks for uploading the pictures and video- it was great to hear your Dad again and it brought back a lot of good memories. He was a marvelous uncle- always supporting and encouraging whatever interest or hobby we were pursuing at the moment. I’ll never forget his thoughtfulness and the knack he had for finding the most esoteric little treasures for his nephews and nieces. We’ve missed him a great deal these past years.

Our thoughts are with you and your family-

Comment by Paul 12.14.08 @ 9:56 pm

Your dad was the one person in your family that I never really knew. After reading this, I’m sad that I didn’t know him. He sounds like an amazing person. Thank you for sharing. I hope you find comfort at this time.

Comment by Alanna 12.15.08 @ 9:43 am

Thank you for sharing this and your dad sounds like an amazing person. My thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

Comment by GQ 12.15.08 @ 1:11 pm

Thank you for the extremely touching tribute to your father. As a deputy DA here in Alameda County your father’s name is so familiar and he is highly respected. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Comment by Maya Ynostroza 12.15.08 @ 7:19 pm

Lawrence this was a great tribute to your dad. I had the chance to meet when I was a Law Enforcement Officer. I remember he had a great since of humor and I enjoyed the Point of View Videos. I am in the DA’s office now and I can tell you your dad is still remembered fondly.
My Prayers for your dad and the rest of your family -Autrey

Comment by Autrey 12.15.08 @ 7:24 pm

To the Ingraham Family
I worked with Don in the DALITE section for many years. He brought such humor and profound intelligence to the unit on a daily basis. He had a way to answer the answerable that constantly had me in awe. My mission was to make him laugh. It was hard to do but once in a while I would hit one out of the park with him. I miss him every day still. I am sad that he is gone but I hope he is at peace at last.

Comment by Pooch 12.15.08 @ 7:26 pm

I only knew your Dad as the DA who presented our “Points and Authorities” video at the DA’s Office when I was a new DA. I always thought, “Man, I’ll never be as smart as that guy!” Thanks for sharing a side of your Dad many of us in the office never knew about him, and my thoughts and prayers to your family.

Comment by David 12.15.08 @ 7:31 pm

I am saddened at the lost of you dad. I had the prevlige of working with him for 30 years and I loved every minute. I’m also greatful that he married such a wonderful person, Terry and that I was able to watch you boys grow up and become men.
I will miss him.
Yvonne Ayres

Comment by Yvonne Ayres 12.15.08 @ 7:56 pm

Lawrence – I’m really sorry to hear about your dad. I love what you wrote, it brought tears to my eyes even though I didn’t know him. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Julia Burg 12.15.08 @ 8:22 pm

This is a wonderful and creative tribute to a wonderful and creative man. I am very sorry to hear of your loss.

Comment by Connie Miner 12.16.08 @ 11:23 am

What a beautiful tribute! I worked with your dad in the late 1960′s and early 1970′s at the DA’s office. I remember once I had expressed an interest in some books. Since your dad belonged to at least one book club, he ordered the books and left them on my San Lorenzo porch early one Saturday morning. He refused to let me reimburse him. He was that kind of man. Alzheimer’s took both my dad and my maternal grandmother. It is an extremely undignified disease, and your dad was certainly a dignified man. My sincere sympathies to you, your brother, your mom, and your extended families.

Comment by Chere Deuel 12.16.08 @ 12:28 pm

Lawrence… Thank you for these memories. My Grandfather started the video unit in the Alameda County DA’s Office in the 1960′s. He was so very proud of that unit and was what your father and Art Garrett produced after he retired. I myself became a Deputy DA in 1996 and shared many delightful conversations with your Dad. What a brilliant man! I found it so ironic that he was fallen by Alzheimers. It could have been the subject of a Greek tragedy. I was just speaking about Don last Thursday with a group of newer D.A.’s He is and always will be a beloved figure around this office. I will miss him. My prayers are with your family. May you and Don finally be at peace.

Comment by Ken Ryken 12.16.08 @ 12:33 pm

Thank you for sharing your dad with us. I had the honor of being taught by your father in the police academy in 1983. Many years later, I had the pleasure of working with him at the District Attorney’s office. As you have mentioned, he truly was a master presenter who could keep everyone’s attention during his lectures. I’m sure he is in heaven now, smiling down at all of us.

Comment by Jeff Harvey 12.16.08 @ 1:17 pm

Lawrence, I could not have asked for a better epitaph for Don. When the law books were put away at the end of every day, he went home to the people who mattered most in his life: yourself, Andrew, and Terry. I thank you guys for being the wonderful family he loved so much. When your daughter gets out in the world you’ll understand his feelings. And I will always be in your debt for the care, the love, and the patient understanding you gave him throughout the seemingly endless progress of his final illness. Awsome.

Comment by Uncle George 12.16.08 @ 1:37 pm


In reading your wonderful reflections on your dad (to me, the one and only Uncle Donald) and others’ responses, I’m struck by so many things that I’ll apologize in advance for what I’m sure will soon be a bit too much for this space. Your dad was no ordinary person though, and his influence deserves some going on about.

As a young kid, I saw Uncle Donald as equal parts comedian, professor, magician, librarian, actor, artist, lawyer, grownup and kid. Going to your house was, in its own way, like going to Disneyland; your attic was the original Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (not precisely a Disney property I know, but you’ll forgive the comparison). Uncle Donald would always talk to us about anything that interested us, find a book or five to fuel our curiosity and draw us a diagram or logo to make it memorable. Magic was an early interest of mine and he loaned, bought or inspired the building of many tricks my parents still have boxed up in their house. Visiting him in Alameda usually meant going to La Val’s Pizza and I still remember thinking “My god, what is this stuff? ‘Pizza’ you say. It’s fantastic. We would never have something like this at our house!”

Now as an adult, nearly the age he was when I was born, I realize that I will never be as bright, articulate and imaginative as he was. But I can (and will) remember to clip to a red velvet rope to someone’s pocket and try to be a great uncle to my nieces and nephews.

That your dad struggled first with his sight and then with his memory is the cruelest of ironies. Few eyes have ever consumed so much or minds organized information so perfectly. I’m so sorry for what that loss meant for him and for your family these last years.

Above all, my lasting memory of Uncle Donald will always be that certain twinkle he’d have in his eye, his mouth slightly awry in a smile, waiting for the perfect moment to hit with the cleverest punch line or to deliver the perfect comic comeback. To find any of his many attributes—the height of intelligence, rightness of character, depth of insight, complexity of humor, enormity of love for his family—in isolation, is rare; to have the combination of those parts, wholly unique. The memory of him, more importantly than his loss, is irreplaceable.

Comment by William Garin 12.16.08 @ 8:24 pm

To the Ingraham Family: I’m another member of the Alameda County DA’s Office and I had the pleasure of learning from your dad. We were all blessed by his intellect and presentations. Please know that you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Comment by Eileen McAndrew 12.17.08 @ 12:58 pm

I was sad when I heard that Don had passed away; Alzheimers IS the cruelest of diseases! I would like to think that he is now free of all that. I was privileged to have Don as my brother-in-law; I could not have asked for better. As a person, he was magical, funny, brilliant, and, above all, the kindest person I have ever known.
My favorite memory is of trying to debate a point with him. About half way through our discussion I would suddenly find that he had switched sides, and I was arguing for what I had initially been dead set against! He could argue any position any number of times, and at the end of the discussion, I was never really sure what I had started out saying or why!
Thank you for the lovely tribute. It was wonderful to hear his voice again and look at the old photos. I know that you and Andrew and your Mom were the most important people in his life, and he loved you with all his heart.

Comment by Cyndi Ingraham Geary 12.17.08 @ 11:03 pm

It was a pleasure to work with Don for over twenty years. He was a delightful man with a wide range of knowledge and interests…a true scholar. Among my memories of him was his office on the 9th floor of the Court House with the groaning and overloaded bookshelves, stacks on the floor and randon piles that held what was an eclectic collection of books and documents that reflected his many interests. His work in the office is well known and he lives forever in the Point of View tapes that were part of the Monday evening staff meetings. The picture of him topping his hat as if to say a jaunty good-bye to us all brings tears to my eyes. Your father was an extraordinary man and a joy to know. He will be missed and remembered by all who knew him.

Comment by Buzz DaVega 12.20.08 @ 4:14 pm

I’m sure you don’t remember me, but I took dance classes from your Mom when you were little, and your folks both let me stay in the carriage house behind your place when I was broke and in college.

I happened on your site out of the blue today, and was deeply saddened to hear of your father’s recent passing. The pictures you posted of your Dad and his work brought back so many happy memories. Both your parents were such a source of joy in everyone’s lives the years we knew them, and your father will be deeply missed by so many.

My family’s thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time.

Comment by Andrea Lawson 01.07.09 @ 12:42 am

[...] received an email from Lawrence. His dad, Don Ingraham, designed Alameda’s flag in 1984. Lawrence also pointed me to an article (on the design of [...]

Pingback by On the design of Alameda’s flag « Alameda Musings 01.28.09 @ 12:10 am

I knew your father 30+ years ago. Your father was terrific and I too loved his sense of humor. As I read these posts I see how he profoundly touched so many people. Well, his legacy continues even further. You may remember a friend of his, Darryl Ferreira. When I was a teenager, Darryl was the director of a teen acting troupe that I performed in and Don contributed many wonderful adaptatios of children’s plays for our group to perform. His witty versions of well-known fairy tales entertained hundreds of youngsters. But his theatrical works didn’t stop there. I kept all those plays that I performed in many years ago, and now as a theatre teacher, I make sure his satirical plays are a part of my classroom curriculum every year and the students just LOVE them.

Comment by Arlene 03.06.09 @ 1:45 am

Dear Ingraham Family,
A true loss, not only to you, but to the law enforcement family as well.
I met Don while I was at OPD and saw all those qualities you conveyed and just enjoyed being around him.
I have walked, played ball,ran the bases, walked into the corn rows looking for “Shoeless Joe Jackson” and the others at the “Field of Dreams” (just an hr outside of Des Moines, IA, and still available for stays, weddings,etc.) and found peace there too….Anytime you want to go, contact me and we’ll enjoy, pray,relax and search LF or just from the bleachers, for TWO icons..
My best, (I’ll wear my Billy Bob teeth so he’ll see us)
Jim Coleman
OPD (Ret.)
Mazatlan, Mexico

Comment by Jim Coleman 04.20.09 @ 12:26 pm

Lawrence, I was deeply saddened to hear of your fathers passing. He will be in my prayers. Your Dad was a great guy! As I write this message I am looking at my Retirement poster drawn by Don. I and numerous others treasure his memory via our drawings created by your father. My thoughts are with you and your family. Jim Barbour, Ret Capt DA’s Ofc

Comment by Jim Barbour, Ret Captain DA's Ofc 04.20.09 @ 1:44 pm


Only today did I learn of Don’s passing. Belated condolences.

What a proud son you must be, and deservedly so. I served with OPD from 1964-89, so my career roughly paralleled your dad’s. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting him many times in individual and group settings. And, like everybody else, he taught me more case and statutory law than anybody else in or out of law enforcement.

Never before have I met anybody who had such a dry sense of humor and razor sharp timing when he used it. It takes a lot to make case law entertaining. Don did so routinely.

Over the years, I must have called Don 20-30 times to get counsel on some statute or legal technicality. My recollection from these many pleas for help? First, Don was always available. He usually answered the phone himself on the first ring. If he was not in the office, he called back right away.

Second, there was NEVER a question that he did not answer authoritatively and immediately, with no need for research or “I get back to you.” He would even give the case citations in the course of the response. How could he do that? We did not need computers back then, we had Don.

A great human being with a brilliant mind and incredible sense of humor, Don’s contribution to justice in Alameda County can never be fully measured.

Phil Coleman

Comment by Phil Coleman 04.20.09 @ 3:36 pm

I worked with Don in the DA’s office for more than 20 years. He moved into my office on the 9th floor when I was put in charge of the drug unit. I don’t think it was 30 minutes later that there were more books in that office than you could find in a library. Don was a remarkable human being and very creative. He was truly one of a kind.

Comment by Chuck Herbert 05.05.09 @ 4:15 pm

I worked with Don for several years with Art Garrrett at the DA’s Video Unit in Oakland, we all had great fun. I will miss him greatly. We all went to the first screening of Star Wars together at the Coronet in San Francisco and loved every minute.

Comment by Sujoy Sarkar 09.08.09 @ 11:38 pm

I’m sorry for what you went through. I’m not your age yet, but the disease is starting to affect me. My great grandmother, up until a couple years ago, ran her own farm. Planted, harvested, all that. In just a couple years time, she barely moves from her couch and can’t remember what she had for dinner the night before. She understands she should be upset about what’s happening to her, but she can’t figure out what exactly it is… it’s an absolutely frightening thing to go through. Despite not being a writer, I think you captured the effects of this disease on even the best of people very well.

Comment by Joshua S. Sweeney 12.23.09 @ 12:37 pm


I’m so sorry for your loss. Your tribute brought tears to my eyes. Your dad sounds like a great man.


Comment by Sal Conigliaro 12.23.09 @ 1:23 pm

I performed the definitive research on computer crime at SRI International in 1970-1997 and wmet with Don to exchange information in the nature of computer crime. Don contributed greatly to our knowledge of computer crime and his no-nonsense approach was instrumental in making the criminal justice community effective in dealing with it. Can you imagine what he would be doing today with the proliferation of cybercrime? What a wonderful, caring, intelligent man.

Comment by Donn Parker 06.14.10 @ 6:37 pm