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Donald M. Lionetti

"Don"

Company K-2

6 Mar 1940 - 6 Mar 2019

Place of Death: Tampa, FL

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery

It is with great regret and sorrow that I must inform you of the death of our Classmate, Don Lionetti, on March 6, 2019 in Tampa, FL. 

Don is survived by his wife Bobbi; their daughter, Laura and her husband, Mike; their sons, Donald and his wife, Julie, and Christopher and his wife, Betsy; and grandchildren, Kelsey Barton, Roxanne Lionetti, and Dominico Lionetti.

A funeral Mass will be at Christ the King Catholic Church, 821 S. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL  33609 at 2 PM on Thursday, March 28, 2019.

Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery at date to be determined. 

Condolences may be sent to Bobbi at 4517 W. Rosemere Road, Tampa, FL  33609-4209. 

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations in Don’s memory be sent to Wounded Warrior Project, PO Box 758517, Topeka, KS  66675-8517.

Well done, Don. Be thou at peace.

July 29, 2019, Arlington National Cemetery on a slight rise of hallowed ground, the Washington Monument in the distance, The Old Guard, of the U.S. Third Infantry Regiment honoring our Classmate, Don Leonetti. As many of our Classmates and wives followed the lone Soldier bearing Don’s red colored flag of three white stars and who marched behind the historic horse drawn caisson bearing Don’s stars and stripes draped casket, the U.S. Army band rendered those same rhythmic beats so familiar from our parades on the Plain. The gravesite service concluded with the artillery salute of 15 rounds, then all listened for the Crack! Crack! Crack! of the Honor Guard’s traditional rifle salute, and the immediate sounding of Taps somber notes. Prior to the burial ceremony, the funeral service took place in the Old Post Chapel with eulogies and remembrances from family and friends who were special companions during Don’s life and  career. Major General Donald Infante, Brigadier General Roger Yankoupe, and Don, Jr. offered prayers and thoughtful anecdotes regarding Don as Soldier, friend , husband and father. Following the burial, Bobbie, Don’s  bride of almost 58 years hosted a breakfast reception that provided time for our Classmates to recall their times with Don from cadet days and right up until his passing. The Connollys for one, were especially supportive during Don’s final days.  There was time too to share thoughts with those surviving Don: daughter Laura and husband Mike Barton, sons Don, Jr and wife Julie, Chris and wife Betsy and Don’s brother Bill and sister Mary Ann Gleason. Bobbie & Don had three grandchildren along with numerous nieces and nephews. Among our ‘mates present were Lucy Paone, Bobbie & Jim Blesse, Rina & Ed Brown, Linda & Jim Connolly, Gina & Joe Fishburne, Jan & Pat Hillier, Bob Rosenkranz, Mike Urette, Gene Witherspoon.

Well done, Don; be thou at peace.

Remembrances:

Class Memorial Pages\K-2 Don Lionetti.pdf

Obituaries:

Taps Tribute:

DONALD M. LIONETTI 1961

Cullum No. 23485-1961 | March 6, 2019 | Died in Tampa, FL

Interred in Arlington National Cemetery, VA

The portrayal of cadet life in the popular TV series “The West Point Story” and the encouragement of his father motivated Donald Michael “Don” Lionetti, a second-generation Italian American from a large New Jersey family who had vivid memories of eight uncles returning from World War II, to apply to West Point. From the moment he entered USMA on July 2, 1957 as the second youngest member of his class, he demonstrated a keen sense of humor and a willingness to work hard and help others. Don was an above-average cadet, despite occupying the “ejection seat” in Spanish more than once. Don was selected to the Class Committee, was on the Bugle Notes staff, and was a member of several clubs, including the Rocket Society (perhaps a preview of his future). He joked that he did well in plebe boxing, as he was a good bleeder. He also participated as a “B” Squad footballer during yearling year and in intramural sports every season. He served as the Company K-2 executive officer as a firstie.

While at West Point, he met, dated and fell in love with the person he called the most important influence in his life, Roberta “Bobbi” Tibbett. They married days after graduation and welcomed a baby daughter, Laura, 10 months later. Sons Don Jr. and Christopher followed in 1965 and 1970.

Throughout his 33-plus-year U.S. Army active duty career, Don and Bobbi moved 31 times. Duty assignments included his initial deployments as commander of a Nike-Hercules battery protecting the Washington, DC area during the tense Cuban Missile Crisis and as tactical director at the NORAD Command Center in upstate New York, followed by a tour in Germany, where he held his first captain level command. Don also served in Vietnam as a Field Artillery battery commander in Nha Trang.

After earning his master’s degree in engineering at Arizona State University, Don taught at USMA as an Assistant Professor of Engineering for three years. This assignment taught him a valuable lesson that served him well as he ascended the ranks of command: “What’s more important than anything else is to put yourself in the shoes of the listener and ask yourself what the listener needs to hear in order for them to understand the point being made.” He truly enjoyed returning to West Point with his family and took advantage of the opportunity to cheer on the Black Knights at home football games. Don also became the OIC for the West Point Glee Club.

Don returned to Germany in 1975 to serve as the XO of the 3rd Battalion, 61st ADA and later spent two years as the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 60th ADA at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

Back in the United States, Don assumed brigade command of the 9th DIVADA at Fort Lewis, WA, where he acquired the nickname “Father of the Avenger” after working with Boeing to develop that weapons platform.

Don later served as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery Center and Fort Bliss, TX. Don said, “My two years at Fort Bliss were the most fulfilling, rewarding, self-actualizing assignment I have ever been privileged to have.” As Chief of Branch, he provided strategic vision, operational concepts and materiel requirements that were later validated in the Gulf War. Under his leadership, the ADA was thrust into the national and international spotlight as his units protected civilians and U.S. Armed Forces against Scud missiles with the Patriot missile system, ushering in a new era in air defense. Eleven thousand soldiers from Fort Bliss deployed to the Gulf War, and Don and Bobbi greeted each as they returned home.

Don’s final assignment as a lieutenant general was serving as Commanding General, U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command.

After retirement from the Army, Don served as VP for Air and Missile Defense Systems for Lockheed Martin for five years. He was also a national security consultant for ground-based air and missile defense, space applications for terrestrial military operations and related research, technology and acquisition until 2017.

Over the course of Don’s career, he earned a Master of Science degree in Engineering from Arizona State University and completed Command and General Staff College with honors as well as the National War College. Don was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit Medal. He also earned the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and National Defense Service Medal. He was also the 1996 recipient of the American Astronautical Society Trophy for his leadership in the application of astronautics to the development of space systems for national defense.

Don loved traveling with Bobbi and their friends and especially enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren. He also remained active in the air and missile defense and the West Point alumni communities until 2018.

He is survived by his wife, Bobbi of Tampa, FL; his daughter, Laura Lionetti Barton, son-in-law, Mike Barton, and granddaughter Kelsey of Tampa, FL; his son Don Jr. and daughter-in-law Julie of Bellevue, WA; and his son Christopher, daughter-in-law Betsy, and grandchildren Roxanne and Dominico (Nico) of Duvall, WA.

“Remember me as a career officer of integrity, devoted to our Army and its soldiers, lucky enough to be entrusted with wonderfully exciting assignments; as a loving, respectful and grateful husband of Bobbi throughout a lifetime of adventure; and finally, as a devoted father and grandpa of three absolutely fantastic children, their spouses and three terrific and loving grandchildren—our true legacy.”

Well Done, Don; Be Thou at Peace, good friend!

— Don’s loving family and good friend Jim Connolly