Thompson, Donald Y.

Donald Y. Thompson

Donald Y. Thompson, Colonel, USAF (Retired)

September 17, 1944 – May 31, 2016

Donald “DY” Y. Thompson, 72 passed away in Austin, Texas on May 31, 2016, from heart complications. His Methodist Church memorial service was crowded with family and friends from far and near who mourned his passing.  The service included a beautiful Color Guard ceremony.

Don was born and raised in Houston, Texas.  After high school graduation, he went to the Air Force Academy and graduated in 1966.  His favorite activity while he was there was his job as a yearbook staff worker and photographer.  That summer after graduation, Don’s adventurous spirit led him to the Grand Canyon where he walked to the bottom, spent the night, and walked back out.

Pilot training in Del Rio, Texas, was Don’s next school where he made many lifelong friends.  From there he went to McChord AFB in Washington where he flew C-124s to about 60 countries around the world.

During the Vietnam War, Don went to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, and cross-trained into the HH-53 (Jolly Green Giant) helicopter.  While there, he met his future wife, Carolyn, who was an Air Force nurse.  After the training he was stationed in Thailand.  Don flew rescue and recovery missions to pick up shot down pilots.  He received medals for each rescue.  His highest medal was a Distinguished Flying Cross.

A few months after he returned home, Don married Carolyn.  He became an instructor in Texas and later at Hill AFB, Utah, cross-training other pilots into helicopters.  His first two sons, Steve and Jeff, were born there in Utah.

Don first attended Squadron Officer School at Maxwell AFB in Alabama.  He was then selected as an instructor there for his next assignment.  Out of his 13 classes, one was a Chief of Staff class, and another was a top athletic class.  Before leaving Maxwell AFB, Don attended Air Command and Staff College.  His third son, Chris, was born there in Alabama.

Don was sent to Kirtland AFB, in New Mexico next.  He obtained his Master of Arts degree in night school while he was there.  Don’s final Air Force assignment was at was at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio.  While there, Don was very involved in both the Night Hawk and the Pave Low helicopter programs.

When Don retired from the Air Force, he immediately went to work at Systems Research Laboratories in Dayton, Ohio, as a program manager where he continued to work with helicopters.  He worked for the same company for 20 years although it changed names five times because of mergers with other companies.  After living in Ohio for 17 years, Don’s company transferred him to Austin, Texas.  After his second retirement, Don continued to stay busy.

Over the years, Don has been a member of the American Helicopter Society, a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, and he has served on numerous church committees.  For 10 years Don did crisis line counseling, and he taught the classes to others who volunteered to help.  He ushered at many art venues for more than 20 years.  Don has planned road rallies and scavenger hunts for groups.  He has worked school carnivals and fairs.  Don always enjoyed cooking for large groups, woodworking, collecting and watching classic movies, and solving challenging puzzle books.  He also was an avid reader. Don is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carolyn; sons Steve, Jeff and Chris; daughter-in-law Becky; and grandchildren Taylor, Ryann and C.J.


Captain Donald Y. Thompson served during the Vietnam War as a HH-53C/B helicopter pilot with the 40th ARRS in the 1969-1970-time frame.

Integrity, Honor, and Respect
Some of the best things cannot be bought, they must be earned

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