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Donald A. Couvillion

Company E-1

8 Dec 1939 - 8 Dec 1995

Place of Death: Mount Holly, NJ

Interment: West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY


Class Memorial Pages\E-1 Don Couvillion.pdf

Today is the anniversary of the birth and death of a man to whom I will be eternally greatful. Don befriended me at a time when my life could have taken many directions. He allowed me to marry his only daughter. Our three children are now his legacy. In his untimely death he helped me to appreciate life, and I have lived every day since, as if it were to be my last. I wake to each day and recognize it to be a gift, and lay down each night with nothing but joy for having been able to experience yet another day. I wish to thank Don for his sacrifice, and the thousands of of days, made more precious because of him. (He was also a hell of fun guy!)

Mark LeMire

Assembly/Taps Memorial Article:

No. 23787 - 8 Dec 1939-8 Dec 1995
• Died in Mount Holly, NJ
• Interred in West Point Cemetery, West Point, NY

Don "the Couver's" was born in Baton Rouge, LA on 8 Dec 1939 and left us exactly 56 years later.

In 1949, his parents, Lindsey and Doneta, and his older sister and two younger brothers moved to Burbank, CA. He spent his childhood and school years there as an honor student in high school, captain of the football team, and student body president.

Don accomplished his dream at the age of 17 with an appointment to the United States Military Academy. He joined the "Class of '61, "Second to None", making an immediate impact on the Long Gray Line with his outgoing personality and tenacity. He enjoyed challenging the system (it always prevailed). His total commitment to West Point allowed him to take those challenges head-on and achieve success in all endeavors. Who will forger the Life magazine feature article on the Plebe Class of '61 that displayed a photo of Don and Jim Schall dancing as the class learned "How to Dance" from the Arthur Murray Dance School? An outstanding athlete, he excelled on the intramural fields.

In his cow year, Don met Janet Warner of Lumberton, NJ, on a blind date. After Infantry, Airborne, and Ranger schools, Don and Janet married at Ft. Dix, NJ, in February 1962. In May, Don and Jan arrived in Panama. In November, they were proud parents of their first child, Caprice. Son Collin arrived in 1974, the day before their 12th anniversary.

After 4 years in the Infantry jumping out of airplanes, Don had a better idea—flying. He volunteered for flight training and qualified in fixed wing at Ft. Rucker in 1965 and the Caribou at Ft. Eustis in 1966. In 1967, he went to Vietnam, where he flew Caribous and Beavers in and out of remote locations. In 1969, he returned to Ft. Eustis and qualified in the OV-1 (Mohawk) before returning to Vietnam with the 13th Aviation Battalion. During his second Vietnam tour, Don was awarded the DFC at Can Tho. Never outgrowing his love for flying, he was one of the original Army pilots selected for the astronaut program in the early 1970s, continuing on to become rotary-winged qualified in 1973 and serving as a test pilot at Ft. Eustis from 1973-76.

Retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1981, Don utilized his aeronautical experience and master of science degree in engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in the aerospace industry. Joining Transcoil, Inc. as the chief engineer, he was soon recruited into the management team of Magnavox Corporation.

These two positions helped propel his career further as the Regional Manager of AIL Systems, Inc., remaining there until retiring again in 1994. In the private sector of the defense industry, Don's engineering talents, brilliance, and foresight were instrumental in the production of numerous corporate patents and copyrights.

It is impossible to know Don without insight from his family and friends. Caprice writes, "My dad's genius didn't end with the mastery of aeronautics. The man was a walking encyclopedia. The New York Times crossword puzzle took him no time. Many a Sunday morning I woke up to the phone ringing. I would answer it groggily to hear him announce, 'I'm done! You'll never get 18 across!' And Trivial Pursuit? Forget it! No one else stood a chance. His sense of humor and love of teasing were legendary. When Collin and I were young, he once spent hours making a magazine-cover-perfect lemon meringue pie. (No one in the family liked lemon meringue pie). He labored over it for the sole purpose of throwing it at us—he said it was something he'd always wanted to do.

"When he got his mind set, he was as stubborn as an ox. One summer, he decided that his protégé and I would make a good couple. He kept arranging 'accidental' meetings until the young man and I finally hit it off. His instincts were right on target, as usual. A few years after we married, my father began a new era of his life—one for which no one has ever been better suited. Grandpa!!! He spent his last few years creating indelible memories for his two grandchildren. He was a loyal, devoted father; a terrific, playful grandpa; and an optimist. We are better for having known and loved him."

His brother Ken writes, "In the fall of 1994, Don invited me to join him in Washington, DC, for an annual Army trade show and black tie banquet. As the main ceremonies were about to begin, the Army Choir sang a variety of songs, including the Battle Hymn of the Republic. As Don stood next to me in his full-dress tuxedo with a multitude of ribbons on his chest, I saw his lower lip quiver and his conscious effort to fight back a tear. Later, he confided in me that it was West Point that instilled that patriotism in him."

A friend, classmate, and New Jersey neighbor recalls Don's upbeat spirit and approach to life despite his illness. His love of West Point and the Army team were undaunted. In the fall before he left, Don attended virtually every Army home game. Against a particularly tough opponent, Don was asked what he thought about Army's chances. He said, "I'm scared!" Army prevailed. Don was never "scared" about living life to the fullest or the pain associated with his illness.

Don was brilliant, fun with a quick sense of humor, professional in his multi-careers, and intensely loyal to family and friends as well as loving and compassionate. Admired and respected by fellow cadets, officers, and enlisted men, he was a true American and patriot.

Fighting the battle with cancer to the end, he paid visits and made calls to his longtime friends in his last days ensuring that he bid his fond farewell to all.