If you didn’t know Don Henderson Pulley well, he was very quiet. But if you did know him, you know he didn’t mince words or sugarcoat things. You always knew where you stood with him. Don was stubborn. He was independent. He was loyal – as long as you didn’t cross him. When he left us on January 20, 2022, we thought long and hard about how he would have liked to be remembered.
Don was born on August 24, 1957 to the late Howard David and Nell Fletcher Pulley, Sr.
Don was also preceded in death by two brothers; a twin – John William Pulley and Howard David Pulley, Jr., and his wife of 32 years, Susie Pulley.
Don Pulley is survived by son, Brian (Ashley) Pulley of Springfield, daughter Jodi (Todd) Ballard of Springfield, sisters Donna Smith and Cindy (Harold) Joyce, both of Springfield, and grandchildren Ava & Henry Pulley, Tate and Emri Ballard, and several special nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held at the Robertson County Funeral Home on Friday, January 28 from 10:00 a.m. until the hour of service at 2:00 p.m. Burial will take place at Springfield Memorial Gardens.
If you looked closely at Don, you’d notice an ear that just didn’t look quite right. But you probably wouldn’t ask him about it, because you’d be scared to. Don was burned and injured in 1993 at a memorable fire in which the ceiling partially collapsed, hitting him in the head and knocking him to another floor below. If you stop by the Springfield Fire Hall today, you’d see Don’s hand-light in the trophy case used at this incident.
Don Pulley lived and breathed firefighting. He was so proud of becoming an entry level fireman in 1982, and working his way up to Fire Engineer, Firefighter II, Fire Lieutenant, and finally, Fire Captain “C” Shift. He didn’t get these promotions by brown-nosing (he’d tell you), but by his own merit. His resume of battled fires will inspire nostalgia in long-time Springfield residents – like the Memorial Boulevard Pizza Hut, the Hinkle & Moss Building, and paint line fires at Frigidaire and Unarco, among many others.
Don was a morale booster at the Firehall and inspired “friendly” competitions against members on other shifts. You would find his trophies displayed in a special place brought back from the “Guts & Glory” Competitions held at the Nashville Fire Academy. And many years later, he’d also show you a photo of Tate and Henry, two of his grandchildren, wearing his fire hat – whether you asked him to or not.
He was all guy. Like a master griller, working on a car in the driveway with friends and family while listening to John Ward announcing the University of Tennessee ballgames and drinking beer kinda guy. If there wasn’t a game on, you’d hear WKDF loudly. Loud as in if 30 decibels equal a whisper, and 120 could do immediate ear harm, he would like it around 90.
And about that car in the driveway… His pride and joy was a ‘71 Dodge Charger that started out painted brown, then received a charcoal gray color after one wreck, and later candy apple red when Susie Pulley got a hold of it. At one point in the life of The Charger, it was being driven by 16-year-old Brian Pulley, where reportedly, Don would come to the high school and check the oil levels on it to be sure it was being taken care of. He liked his vehicles meticulously clean. Brian was always the tire and wheel guy, and to this day, never got it to the level of perfection that Don required.
Completing his guy resume, Don added a love of NASCAR. Richard Petty, to be more specific. And also craftsmanship and ingenuity. He built his own house, and could even tell you the number of nail holes and where he placed everyone. He also developed a tool to quickly release a vehicle hood while an engine was in flames. He was an avid reader and could recommend a hair-raising mystery novel.
Don was quick witted, and had many sayings, most of them not fit to print, but we know you’ll remember them at just the apopros times. “Apopros. Oh, is that a college word you just used in my obituary?”, he’d probably say. “Let me dig a quarter out of my pocket for what that word is worth.” Or, you might also recall him saying, “You’re slicker than socks on a rooster.” Yep. That’s about all of Don’s sayings that a newspaper might print.
Don didn’t say he loved people much, but if he was cutting up with you, scaring you, or pranking you, you knew you meant a lot to him.
Don met Susie when she worked at EMS at the time the fire hall and EMS were housed in the same building. He called her “mushroom head.” Because, you know, he kinda liked her. A lot. So they got married. Along with Susie came 11-year-old Jodi (Clinard) Ballard in tow, in which Don lovingly accepted as his own. For many years, Don had a schedule of bringing flowers home to Susie after every Firehall shift. And these were not just any $5 bin mixed flowers, there was meaning behind each choice. When Susie went Home after 32 years of marriage, Don brought them to Jodi.
If you came by the house on a day a storm was rolling in, you’d find him on the porch, in a rocking chair watching the scenery God was orchestrating. He’d most likely be smoking a menthol (but never a 100 – they tasted like cat ____ (insert a colorful word of your choice here). We hope that for Don’s sake, they have Kools in heaven. Because according to him, cigarettes haven’t tasted as good since.
If you’d like to remember Don in a special way, you can toast him while you’re grilling and having a cold one. Or you can make a donation in his memory to one of his favorite organizations – United Way of Greater Nashville or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. And on cool evenings when you’ve got a fire going in a pit, if you look really close, you just might see his mustached smile right there in the flames.
Robertson County Funeral Home is in Charge of Arrangements