CAPTAIN DONALD LEROY FULLER USN RETIRED
It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Captain (USN Ret.) Donald Leroy Fuller, 98, of New Smyrna Beach, on September 15, 2021 at Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Don was welcomed into the Omer and Mary Fuller family, 4 of 12, on January 25, 1923 in Jesup, Iowa. Ingrained with a strong desire to achieve and a great work ethic, Don excelled in school and sports while attending Jesup Consolidated High School. Upon graduation, fascinated by the planes shown on the aviators recruitment signs, he enlisted in 1942 into the Naval Aviation Cadet program and there began his 29-year Naval Aviator career. He was commissioned as an ensign after completion of pilot training in 1945. Following completion of pilot training, his first duty station was in Alaska where he patrolled the waters of the northwest coast. He continued in various flight assignments and flew during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. His wide variety of assignments included instructor duty, intelligence gathering, developing instrument landing systems, nuclear testing, program management for Sidewinder and Sparrow missiles, command, diplomatic, and staff functions. His most memorable assignment was as the principal negotiator in returning the Bonin Islands to Japan. In 1966, he was early promoted to Captain. Upon his retirement in 1971, Captain Fuller had amassed more than 30,000 flight hours in more than 31 different aircraft.
Fortunately for Don, he met the love of his life, Helen Marie Krueger, while home in Iowa between active-duty assignments. On July 29, 1950 they married and enjoyed 67 fulfilling, memorable, and sometimes very exciting years before her passing. They traveled to many exotic areas of the world and made many long-lasting friendships.
Upon retirement from the Navy, Don, given his strong strength of faith, chose to take a different path. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Clarke College and a Master of Divinity Degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary. On July 13, 1975 Don was ordained in the American Lutheran Church of Jesup, Iowa. His first parish was in Odessa, Texas. In 1977 he and Helen accepted a call to serve again at a Bush Hospital in Liberia, West Africa where they had been Missionaries !973-1974. In addition to being Pastor for the local community and the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing, Don was able to help start the Phebe Community Lutheran School from scratch with 22 kids. The Rice Riots and political unrest in the early 80s soon forced them to return to the United States. The experience of being able to have established a school with a student body that grew to 1,000 students meant more to Don than anything else he had ever done. In 1984 they retired to New Smyrna Beach where Don still continued to help out at Trinity Lutheran Church when needed.
Don enjoyed watching all sports, daily Sudoku puzzles, was a wiz at Trivia, and hated to lose at cards or bowling. His love of golf brought him to Sugar Mill Golf and Country Club where he was known as one of the best Match Play golfers. He won 37 of 38 Gathering of the Clans Tournaments and 5 President Cups in a 19-year period. He, also, well into his 80s successfully competed with his younger brother, Bill, in many Member Guest Tournaments.
Don touched many lives in always a positive way and usually brought a smile to their faces with a whimsical comment or greeting. He was predeceased by his wife, Helen, parents, Omer and Mary Fuller, sisters: Lucille (in infancy), Marge, Frances and Joanie, brothers: Robert, Charles, John and William. Don is survived by one sister, Marian (Jim) Elson and two brothers: Jim (Cleta) and Tom (Karen) and many Nieces and Nephews.
Don will be interred at the Cape Canaveral National Cemetery after a ceremony with Full Military Honors on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at 2pm. A celebration of life will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 485 Turnbull Bay Road, New Smyrna Beach, FL on Saturday, October 30, 2021 at 11am. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to Habitat for Humanity or Save the Children. Condolences may be shared with the family at https://baldwincremation.com/obituaries/donald-fuller/
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