MacDonald, Gerard H.

Gerard H. “Gerry” MacDonald, USAF (Retired)
August 02, 1941 – August 23, 2012

MacDONALD, GERARD “Gerry”, 71, of Tampa, FL, died Thursday, August 23, 2012 in Huntersville, North Carolina, while visiting family. He had battled for several years with serious medical conditions caused by Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam war. Services will be private, with interment taking place at Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.

He was born on August 2, 1941, in Lowell, Massachusetts, to the late Dorothy S. and Francis B. MacDonald, of Billerica, Massachusetts. He graduated from Billerica Memorial High School in 1959 and from Lowell Technological Institute in 1963 with a B.S. Degree in Industrial Management. Commissioned in the United States Air Force at graduation, he served proudly on active duty and in the Air Force Reserve for over 20 years as a pilot, flight instructor, flight examiner and operations officer, flying the C-124, C-141 and C-123 multi-engine transport aircraft. He spent a year in combat, flying the HH-3 “Jolly Green Giant” rescue helicopter in Southeast Asia during the Viet Nam war. He was medically retired from Eastern Air Lines, having been based in Miami with Eastern as a pilot for several years.

He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Delaurace, and is survived by a brother, Art MacDonald (wife Val and daughter Meredith) of Warner Robins, Georgia, son Jim MacDonald (wife Cheryl and sons Brandon and Alex) of Huntersville, North Carolina, daughter Tracy Hurley (husband Bill) of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, ex-wife Judy MacDonald of Acton, Massachusetts, and good friend Shirley Bruce of Tampa, Florida. The family can be contacted by phone at 478-361-5954 (brother Art) or 704-947-7360 (son Jim).

They wish to express heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses, and staff at the James A. Haley, VA hospital in Tampa, and to the caregivers in the VA Medical Foster Home Program there, especially Ms. Cindy Harris and her family, who made possible a happy and productive life for Gerry in his final days, in spite of many medical complications.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that gifts be made to a favorite charity.

Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville, North Carolina is assisting the family. Friends may offer condolences to the family at


September 05, 2012
I served with Gerry while he was a Captain and I was a Major when we were assigned to the 37th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron in the late 1960’s at Da Nang AB in Vietnam. We flew the HH-3 under the call sign “Jolly Green Giant,” Our primary mission was the rescue of pilots who had been shot down although we were often involved in actions where friendly forces were in peril and the only means of extricating them was by use of our specially equipped helicopters.

For those who aren’t familiar with combat rescue, by nature it is inherently a highly fluid operation; in most cases with little or no time to pre-plan or organize the various elements that can be involved before you arrive on-scene. These vary from little or no support to a virtual armada of air assets. In addition, because of the limited technology available in those days, our ability to find those we were trying to save was based on a visual sighting. Consequently, once in the immediate area of the survivor(s) the HH-3 pilot’s primary focus was on positioning the HH-3 into a stable hover over the rescue(s), often over triple canopy jungle. During this phase of the operation, the key on-board individual in making it all come together was the HH-3 co-pilot.

Gerry was my HH-3 co-pilot on several occasions. In addition to being highly qualified as a pilot who could take over in the event I was incapacitated, he was an exceptional in the on-board “rescue mission management” role, highly organized, cool and competent despite the invariable stress of the situation. A pilot couldn’t ask for a better aviator riding “shotgun” with him.

Although I understand he spent the remainder of his USAF career flying other aircraft, his tour with the Jolly’s epitomized the rescue motto “That Others May Live.”

I’ve included a picture of the 37th ARRS pilots while Gerry was assigned. He’s on the far right, front row.
Vern Dander, Colonel, USAF (Retired)

August 30, 2012
Gerry was a good friend to me and my family. We spent many happy holidays together. He was a very kind and generous man. And yes, he did have a great sense of humor. I will miss my friend more than words can say.
Shirley Bruce, Tampa, Florida

August 30, 2012
A Fellow Classmate My Condolences To All Of His Family
Wes Beckwith, Port St Lucie, Florida

August 29, 2012
I worked with Gerry in 1996 and 1997 in Florida. He was a wonderful person to be around and a privilege to know. I will miss him very much. He was a truly great Cristian. May he be with the Lord today, and someday I will see him again. My prayers go out to the family members.
Ira Bryant, Blairsville, Georgia

August 29, 2012
Although I only knew Gerry for a short time, working with him in 1997, he made an impact on me that I will never forget. Always ready with a warm smile, a positive attitude and a wonderful sense of humor, Gerry helped to provide a foundation for my working life, and I am forever grateful for the influence he had on me. He will be missed, but always remembered.
Ed Edwards, Dallas, Texas

August 29, 2012
Gerry was a swell classmate to the Billerica H.S. class of ’59. We are very saddened by his passing. Our deepest sympathy to his family.
Gloria Morris, No. Chelmsford, Massachusetts

August 29, 2012
So Very Sad to hear about our wonderful cousin’s passing. We will miss him A Lot!!!
Jean & Janet Strong,
Mashpee & Hingham, Massachusetts

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