Education, music and sports were lifelong passions for Don Carruth.

After surviving a life-threatening illness as a child, Carruth, the youngest of 11 siblings, became the first in his family to get a college education.

He went on to successful careers as educator and administrator, coach and musician.

Carruth, of Excelsior, died on June 12. He was 106.

"He was something," said son Don Jr. "He knew what he wanted. Up until the end he made all of his decisions."

Carruth was born to Carrie and Albert Carruth on Nov. 20, 1913, on a farm near Danvers in Swift County in west-central Minnesota.

In 1918, at the age of 5, Carruth became ill with the Spanish flu. On two occasions, a doctor visited the farm to try to treat his fever and told Carruth's parents the prognosis was bleak.

But he survived the flu and went on to play multiple instruments as a teenager. He learned how to play the piano from his older sister Mildred, and played in bands with two of his brothers. He attended country schools before graduating from nearby Benson High School.

His musical ability paid off. While pursuing a teaching degree in the early 1930s from what was then called St. Cloud State Teachers College, Carruth supported his wife, Florence, and two young children by playing in bands.

After graduating from college, he started his teaching career in Appleton, Minn. He subsequently taught and coached at Watertown High School before moving to Excelsior High School in 1942.

"In my younger days," said Don Jr., "we lived across the street from a ballpark and he spent hours hitting ground balls to me."

From 1944 to 1946, Carruth served in the Navy. He was trained as a pharmacist and stationed in Washington state. He played the saxophone in a Navy band.

After his service, he returned to Excelsior. In 1952, Carruth, who had earned a master's degree in school administration from the University of Minnesota, became a principal at Excelsior Elementary School.

He served at Minnetonka West Middle School for several years before returning to the Excelsior school, where he retired in 1976, at the age of 62.

He coached baseball teams, from Little League to town team. In 1966, he coached the Chanhassen Red Birds town team, which included all three of his sons.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, he played in the Don Carruth Combo, which played a variety of music at venues throughout the Twin Cities.

Carruth and his wife stayed active with golf and daily games of cribbage. Florence Carruth died in 2004 at the age of 90.

Carruth continued to golf into his 90s and lived in his own home until he was 102.

"He was so grateful," said daughter Donna Hladky. "He always said he was blessed. He raised four children and they were still living. He was thankful that at least one of us was with him every day. My mom and dad were extremely close. My brothers and I were so blessed to have had such a nurturing, loving household to grow up in. He was a very helpful, giving father."

In addition to his son and daughter, who live in Minnetonka, Carruth is survived by sons Robert of Savage and Lee of Maple Grove; seven grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.

A service has been held.

Joel Rippel • 612-673-4719