Col. Donald L. Keplinger
1921 - 2009
Col. Donald L. Keplinger, United States Air Force (retired) died Dec. 19, 2009 in Mesa. He was surrounded by his loving family and listening to Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me.”
Mr. Keplinger was a resident of Payson since 2004 and was preceded in death by his parents, Lewis W. and Leta M. Keplinger; his brother, Robert L. Keplinger; and his daughter, Carolyn Keplinger.
He is survived by his wife, Kathryn (Kay); sister, Martha Cook; his children, Susan Heninger, Nancy Beezley Topper, M.D., Col. Patricia Hunt, USAF (ret.) and Bruce Keplinger; stepchildren, Vicki Parangan, Stephen Meyer and Richard Meyer. In addition, he leaves 20 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. His descendants, along with his many good friends, celebrate and honor his life.
Donald Lee Keplinger was born in Kansas City, Mo. Dec. 29, 1921. He attended the Kansas City public schools and graduated from Southwest High School in 1939. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1942, as a member of the Delta Tau Delta Fraternity and Army ROTC. He immediately joined the Army and entered pilot training in 1943. He loved flying and spent 32 years in service to his country as a pilot, and instructor pilot. He flew the T-6, B-26, B-47, B-52 and KC-135 aircraft. He served through three wars and flew 44 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam. His military decorations include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and Air Force Commendation Medal. He was awarded, with his flight crew, the prestigious MacKay Trophy for flying 10,000 miles in a non-stop 24-hour flight in the B-47 Stratojet, in 1954. Additionally, he had the honor of serving as the commander of two Air Force Wings, the 92nd Strategic Aerospace Wing at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash., and the 98th Strategic Wing at Torrejon Air Base in Madrid, Spain.
He was an avid amateur radio operator and was known through the years by the call letters K4JKP, WA0WMJ, K1TXR, and W7LYU. He loved golf and was also a skilled amateur magician who loved to enthrall with his sleight of hand and delightful personality.
A full military honors memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Friday, March 26 at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests donations to The Air Force Memorial Foundation, One Air Force Drive, Arlington, VA 22204 (airforcememorial.org).
To this daring aviator, decorated patriot, inspiring leader, devoted husband, brother, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and consummate communicator his family writes, “See you on the alternate band. The mystery beyond is now yours to explore.” Alis volat propriis (He flies with his own wings).