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October 20, 2003

Post Script: A newspaper and a bar stool kept ``Deaf Don'' satisfied

From: Virginian Pilot, VA - Oct 20, 2003

By JOHN WARREN, The Virginian-Pilot

CHESAPEAKE -- Donald Query whittled his life into something that worked.

Query, 68, died Oct. 7, of ''everything,'' his brother, Leo, said. His health had been deteriorating for years, worse since being mugged two years ago.

Query worked manual labor jobs, most recently on an Elizabeth River tugboat.

A few years back, when his health began failing and he went deaf, Query went on disability and settled into a South Norfolk efficiency apartment.

Across the street was the 33rd Precinct, a working-class bar where a guy buys a round one night, knowing his pal will do the same the next.

There, where Query spent eight to 10 hours a day, he was known as ''Deaf Don.''

Query arrived early, settling into the same stool at the end of the bar, a good vantage point for watching people and the TV. He'd order a bottomless cup of coffee, then read the newspaper cover to cover.

Query didn't know sign language and couldn't read lips well. He communicated at the 33rd with a pad and pen kept on the bar for him. He liked to joke and would scribble: ''Here comes trouble!'' or ''Cut him off!''

In the early afternoon, Query would order a pitcher of beer, nursing it into the evening. He'd fetch a Western or science fiction novel from the bar's ''take one, leave one'' box. He'd watch TV, but did not want the closed captions turned on.

If Query wasn't at the 33rd Precinct, it was because Leo had taken him out to run errands or to play cribbage.

On July 17, 2001, Query became one of the headlines in his newspaper: ''Deaf man, 66, pleads for help, gets robbed.''

Query, who had the first of nine heart attacks when he was 38, suffered No. 8 the morning of July 16 in his apartment. He had no telephone, and it took him hours to crawl to his door.

There, he beckoned a young man for help. Instead, the man robbed Query of $20 and, absurdly, his pants. Query suffered another heart attack before a carrier bringing his morning paper found him.

The robber was never caught. But Query's family said the ordeal didn't sour his trust. ''Donny took you for what you were,'' said his sister, Gloria.

''As long as he could go to the 33rd, he seemed pretty happy,'' Leo said.

Every day he had a newspaper, people around him and a notepad to write on, and things were all right.

Reach John Warren at 446-2356 or

© 2003