Donald C Hawley was born in St. Louis, Missouri on February 16, 1919. His father Russell and mother Mary raised Don in New Glarus, Wisconsin where he was baptized at the Bethel Church. Russell was a dairyman and Don had wonderful memories of farm life and his beloved horse Billy.
The family moved to Greenville, Illinois where Don was an excellent athlete and held the Illinois State High School record for the mile. One of his best memories was travelling to nearby St. Louis to see the St. Louis Browns play the New York Yankees where he got to see Babe Ruth in one of his final games.
In 1937 Russell accepted a position with Pet Milk and moved the family to Portland, Oregon. This became a region that Don would call home for the remainder of his life. He loved the mountains and lakes of the Northwest. He became an athletic member of the Multnomah Club where he wrestled and took part in other activities, and also attended Lewis and Clark College.
It was his job as a soda jerk at the famed Jolly Joan fountain in downtown Portland, however, that would shape his life from then on. There he met a pretty young blond named Darlene Parker in the spring of 1941. Don had joined the Oregon National Guard and was sent to Fort Lewis that fall.
Darlene was not going to let him go that easily. She and her mother Vetha moved to Seattle to be as near him as possible. Don got a job at Boeing and enrolled at the University of Washington for winter quarter. Then came December 7, 1941.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor he was placed on active duty and immediately sent to the Washington coast to watch for any enemy activity and to support military installations. During the next month he and Darlene had no communication whatsoever.
Upon his return to Seattle and faced with the incredible uncertainty of the time the young couple decided they wanted to spend whatever future they had together. They drove to Olympia and were married on January 10, 1942, just over a month after Pearl Harbor.
The couple spent the next year plus travelling to different military schools after Don was accepted as an Officer Candidate and pilot trainee. On June 26, 1943 their daughter Donna was born, and although Don had not yet been sent overseas he was not able see her prior to his departure for New Guinea on August 28th. He then spent the next 18 months flying a total of 314 combat missions.
By far his most harrowing experience came when flying paratroopers in Australia. The right engine began to vibrate and eventually tore away from the wing altogether. Don along with his co-pilot managed to steady the plane enough to crash land in a field and save countless lives. For this and other acts of heroism he was awarded a Bronze Star, Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross and other citations.
After his return stateside in 1945 Don remained in the Air force and again travelled the country going to military schools. He had an opportunity to return to the Seattle area in 1948 where he worked in air traffic control and he and the family lived in Renton Highlands.
But on a routine check flight Don flew over a small lake south of there and thought it looked like a nice area to live. They contacted a realtor in the area, Skip Ketchum who remained a dear and life-long friend, and purchased an acre with a small house on Lake Meridian where they would remain until 2004.
On April 7, 1950 their son Jim was born and soon after Don was hired by West Coast Airlines where he would spend the rest of his career even though the airline’s name changed to Air West, Hughes Airwest, Republic, Northwest, and now Delta Airlines. Don loved returning from trips to his beloved home on the lake. His nightly tradition in almost any weather was to go down to the dock in the evening with drink in hand just to think and take in the beauty that surrounded him.
There were many milestones over the next decades; graduations and marriages, Jim to Kathy and Donna to Gary. There were get togethers with countless friends on the Fourth of July and other holidays. Don cherished his relationships both personal and professional.
A bittersweet moment came on February 16, 1979 when he was forced to retire from flying at age 60. He did, however, fill his life with many activities including skiing, horse racing, and many trips to Mexico. And on February 14, 1982 he was blessed with his only granddaughter Talia whom he loved dearly. And when Talia was married to Ryan Butler in 2008 Ryan became every bit a part of the family.
In January 2004 they decided it was time to move from the lake and they became the first residents of The Chateau at Valley Center. As always Don and Darlene made many friends and enjoyed the activities offered. They were long time members of the Kent United Methodist Church and managed to remain active for a number of years after their move to the Chateau.
One of Don’s highlights was a trip to Washington D.C. on the Puget Sound Honor Flight. While there he and his son Jim visited many of the sights including the recently added World War II monument. Don was honored at the Air Force Memorial with a flag that was flown over the site and then ceremoniously folded and presented to him in recognition of his service. The flag has a prominent place in their home.
On January 10, 2017 Don and Darlene were honored by many friends and family on their 75th wedding anniversary. The celebration held at the Chateau and was attended by many friends and family and included a wonderful video tribute produced by Gary’s son Tracy.
In spite of somewhat failing health Don was able to laugh and joke with family and friends throughout the past few years. Thanks to the wonderful care given by Darlene with help from the VA Visiting Angels and Providence Hospice services he remained pain free and comfortable. Don passed peacefully on Sunday October, 21, 2018 surrounded by his loving family.