News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 3, 2012

Philanthropist mourning death of grandson

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Don Moffitt, a Terre Haute native known for his philanthropy to his hometown, is mourning the death of his grandson, Sean, who died earlier this week in San Francisco, apparently from head trauma sustained during the community’s celebration of the Giants’ win in the World Series.

San Francisco police are investigating what they describe as a “suspicious” death, said officer Gordon Shyy, an SFPD public information officer.

Authorities were awaiting the medical examiner’s determination of the cause of death.

Sean lived for a short time in Terre Haute,  but eventually returned to San Francisco. Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Dan Tanoos is friends with Don Moffitt and also knows Sean. “We’re all saddened by the loss,” Tanoos said.

In an email, Moffitt stated that Sean’s father, David (Don Moffitt’s son) died in an auto accident when Sean was a young teen. Sean’s parents had divorced and Sean was primarily raised by his mother, he wrote.

“He was very much into sports and the fact that his hometown had just won the Series was a big thing to Sean,” Moffitt wrote.

Don Moffitt, now retired, grew up in Terre Haute and later achieved great success in the business world as the president and chairman of the board of CNF Inc., a transportation and logistics company later known as Con-way.

In an email, Moffitt wrote that Sean had some health problems last year, “and he seemed to have accepted the fact that he might have a short life. He told his mother that when his time came he wanted to be cremated and his ashes scattered over Sausalito Bay. So that is what we will do.”

Don Moffitt recalled a story of happier times, a story he shared with Sean’s mother. “My wife and I often sat for him overnight and he often went sailing with me. At 3 to 5 years old we played a game in the family room, usually when he was trying to avoid bedtime, in which the floor was water with sharks swimming in it. That meant we both had to move around by crawling on furniture and chairs or the sharks would eat us. I had gotten tired and was leaving the room while he protested behind me. As I approached the door, he had given up on my continuing the game, and I heard this weak, tearful, little voice behind me say, Grandpa, watch out for the sharks. As I ran back and picked him up, I knew I would remember that little voice as long as I lived.”

According to Moffitt’s email, Sean’s survivors include his mother, Shannon Piccoli, and sister Kayla, of Lake County, Calif.; grandparents Don and Phyllis Moffitt of San Francisco; and his uncles, Christopher of Redwood City, Calif. and Michael Moffitt of Sitka, Alaska.  

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or