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Col. Donald (Don) J. Kay (USAF) - KØIND - SK (Sep 8, 1927 - Mar 1, 2017)

Thursday, March 2, 2017
by Bobby Graves – KB5HAV

It is with a very heavy heart that I announce the passing of Col. Don Kay, KØIND (USAF). He passed away Wednesday, March 1, 2017, around 11:30 am CST after battling lung cancer for the last 3 years. He was 89 years old.

Don was a great friend and Elmer. I cherish the times we talked on the air as well as my visits to his home in Panama City Beach, FL. During the summer of 2012, I wrote an article about Don in the Hurricane Watch Net newsletter, “The HWN Report”. While interviewing him about his life and career, I learned more about what an amazing man he was.

Don was born in Detroit, MI in 1927 and grew up there. He married his beautiful bride in 1952, and together they have two children: Richard Kay of Tallahassee and Victoria Kay Willis of Dexter, MO. His wife had succumbed to Lymph Node cancer in 1999. Don served in the military from 1946 until 1977. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a BS Degree in 1951 and then attended US Air Force Basic Flight School graduating with Pilot Wings in 1952. His next step was to graduate as an All Weather Pilot.

During Don’s distinguished career, he flew a total of fifteen models of military aircraft: the N3N Canary, the T-6 Texan, the P-51D Mustang, the T-33 Shooting Star, the F-86F Sabre (the USAF's first swept-wing jet fighter), the F86D Sabre (an all-weather interceptor), the A-1Skyraider, the C-47 Skytrain or Dakota (DC-3), the T-29 (developed for the Air Force as a flying classroom to train navigators), the C-131 Samaritan, the C-45 Expeditor, the C-54 Skymaster, the O-2 Skymaster, and the OV-10 Bronco. Don also flew the J-3 Piper Cub (the first plane he soloed in 1946), the Piper Comanche, and the Piper Tri-pacer.

Don flew a total of 175 combat missions & spent well over 610 hours in combat in C-47's in Vietnam. He was with the Vietnam Defense Campaign and Air Campaign from Apr 1965 until Mar 1966. Don served as A-1E section commander for the combat crew training squadron at Hurlburt AFB Florida in 1966. Later that same year, he served as Air Operations Officer while stationed at Eglin AFB Florida. From Jan through Apr 1969, Don flew combat missions flying A-1, O-2, and OV-10 aircraft while in Thailand. He was a squadron pilot flying A-1's stationed at Nakhon Phanom Airport, Thailand and Chief of the Aircrew Evaluation Section. He was transferred to 7th Air Force in Saigon, Vietnam and was a Battle Staff Director. He retired from the Air Force at Air Force Communications Command as Director of Plans. Don also flew DC-3's, Convair 240's, 340's, and 440's for Air Sunshine in Florida and Air Texana in Texas. His final flight was in Apr 1981.

If anyone could be considered a “Humanitarian”, it would be Col. Don Kay. He loved Amateur Radio and, more importantly, he loved helping people. Around 1952, Don earned his amateur radio license while stationed in Colorado Springs, CO. He enjoyed working voice and digital modes. In 1965, he became a member of the Hurricane Watch Net, was one of the original members of the Net and considered by many as a co-founder. He served twenty-three years as Assistant Net Manager from 1965-1988 and four years as net manager from 1988–1992. In the early 80’s, Don designed the Hurricane Watch Net Logo. In 1989 he helped develop Grupo Seguimiento de Huracanes, the Mexican version of the Hurricane Watch Net. In 2013, he was named “Manager Emeritus”. Over the last 4 years, Don served as an advisor. All totaled, he spent 52 years with the Hurricane Watch Net.

He became involved with The Maritime Mobile Service Net as well as Air Force MARS and worked with a group called MARCO (Medical Amateur Radio Conference). Don’s work with MARCO consisted of helping missionaries and doctors throughout Central America and the Caribbean running phone patches. A few patches were for doctors needing to speak with physicians in the US specializing in an area for which they needed assistance, such as pediatrics. In some cases, the doctors would conclude the child needed specialized care or surgery, and this could be handled better in the US. During these situations, I've witnessed Don working closely with others to help coordinate with various airlines servicing location of the child in need and bringing that child plus one parent to the US for care. Once the child was well enough, an airline would fly the child and parent back home at no charge.

He also assisted with communications during the Jim Jones fiasco in 1978 and Grenada conflict in 1983. Senator Barry Goldwater, K7UGA (SK), placed Don in the Congressional Record as an example of Amateur Radio Activity. Following 31 years of volunteer service to the Communications Section of the Bay County Florida Emergency Operations Center, the County Commissioners paid tribute by declaring December 6, 2011 a day in honor of Mr. Don Kay for the valuable services provided. Don was one of the few people I’ve known who had a very calming, reassuring voice during emergency situations (undoubtedly due to his training and service).

Funeral arrangements are in the works; when I have more details, I’ll pass them along. I do know he will be laid to rest with full military honors. Please keep his daughter Vickie, son Richard, and extended family & friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Bobby Graves - KB5HAV
Net Manage
Hurricane Watch Net