Donald Wilson, 100, of Palmyra, PA, died on Monday, June 28, 2021 in Palmyra, PA. Born in Wayne, PA, to Harry and Mary (Hunter) Wilson, he was the brother of the late Harry, George, Allan and Dorothy.
Donald graduated from Radnor High School, Wayne, PA, and worked as a projectionist at the Anthony Wayne Movie Theater. He also worked at the bronze factory in Berwyn, PA, making bushings for B-17 airplanes.
In 1942, Donald was invited to apply as an Aviation Cadet where he received his commission. As part of the 381st Bomb Squadron in the European Theatre of Operations during World War II, he was a B-17 Flying Fortress pilot.
In March 1944 when returning from a mission over Germany in thick clouds with zero visibility, another plane suddenly came up under theirs knocking out the engine, fuel line and Plexiglas nose cover. They lost altitude and went into a tailspin, landing wheels up in a field near Lille, France, with no casualties. Their chaplain, Captain James Good Brown, wrote the inside story of “The Mighty Men of the 381st: Hero’s All” documenting the terrifying account of this mission (page 376-380) and many others. Reported missing in action, many of the squadron became POW, while four members, including Donald, were sheltered by French patriots for over 10 months until that section of France was liberated. During his captivity he was treated like one of the family, learned fluent French, and had remained in contact with the parents, children, and grandchildren of one family for over seventy years. The Canadians eventually came through that sector in France, escorted the Americans to trains and the Paris airport, where they were flown back to England. As an enlisted officer, Donald volunteered to remain in England as an Air Force Pilot, transporting officers and enlisted personnel all over France, Germany and England.
Upon returning to the states, Donald received his college degree from West Chester State College and was employed as a special education teacher in the Marple-Newtown School District, Delaware County until his retirement about 20 years later.
Working with his father, who was a carpenter along the Main Line, Donald designed and assisted with building homes in the area, including his own near his parents’ Wayne home. As a registered surveyor, he mapped and helped layout golf courses. He also enjoyed fishing, traveling, pickleball, and playing golf in the United States and Europe. Donald like to dance and competed and won may blue ribbons and awards. He taught professional round dancing all over the United States and held classes for children in Malvern (that his niece and nephews all attended).
Donald moved to Londonderry Village, Palmyra, PA in 2000 and in 2009 funded the pickleball court which bears a plaque in his honor.
He will be missed by his niece Donna Huber of Newtown Square, PA, nephew Jeffrey Hebrank of Orange City, FL, and his many great nieces, great nephews and friends.
Private burial will be at the First Baptist Church Cemetery, Newtown Square, PA (which he re-surveyed and provided the current owners with blueprints).
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