Donald F. Bennett passed away on January 8 at the age of 88. He will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery amongst the heroes of our country. A beloved resident of Eastlake, he made friends easily but many did not know of his heroic and distinguished aviation career.
Don was born in New Bedford, Mass., and developed an early love for boating and sailing. Summers on Cape Cod working on yachts helped him afford a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Design. His artistic talents and interests continued although his vocational interests took off “into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun.”
Even as a 14-year old, Don had unsuccessfully tried to join the military to help with World War II. Hardly had he finished college when he joined the U.S. Air Force to serve in the Korean War, staying for 15 years to also serve in the Viet Nam war. An expert fighter pilot, Don retired as a Lieutenant Colonel and continued to serve in the Air Force Reserves as he started a 25-year career with the Boeing Aircraft Company as an instructor pilot, traveling the world to deliver aircraft and to train and certify pilots.
Don was one of the few pilots certified to fly every Boeing aircraft. His first plane was the Stearman Boeing Model 75 “Kaydet,” and he flew every plane through the early 777 models (his favorite was the 757). After retiring from Boeing, Don worked for the Federal Aviation Administration as a senior flight instructor. In the Air Force, Boeing, and FAA combined, he accrued over 35,000 flight hours, a level exceeded by only a handful of other pilots of large planes. He truly loved every aspect of flying.
Don also loved his cabin cruiser, a 38-foot Bayliner he named “Liberty,” and aboard which he shared countless sunsets on Lake Union with family and friends. And he collected finely crafted ship models, many of which his son, John, new owner of Pete’s Supermarket and Wine Shop, has put on display throughout the store. The store is just across Fairview Avenue East from where Don lived for 35 years.
Don is greatly missed by many in the Eastlake neighborhood and by his children John (Donna) Bennett of SeaTac; Debra (David) Nowak of Geneva, IL., and Kristin Baker of Seattle; grandchildren Lilly Grace and Charlotte Rose; sister Mary (Arthur) MacNeill of South Carolina; and many other dear relatives and friends. Memorials may be directed to Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 5036, 311 N. 2nd St. #109, St. Charles, IL 60174.