YARMOUTH — Donald Weldon McKibben, 93, known as “Mac” to his flying buddies, died April 9 with his son Frank at his side.
A child of the Great Depression, he grew up in Hornell, New York. There, he met his future wife, developed his lifelong love of jazz music, and made his first solo flight in a Piper J-3 Cub.
As a member of the U.S. Army Air Forces’ 352nd Fighter Group during World War II, McKibben piloted the Republic P-47 “Thunderbolt” and the North American P-51 “Mustang,” defending bombers over Europe.
Even during flight training, McKibben dreamed of becoming a journalist. He carried with him a portable typewriter when he shipped out to England. His prized possession made him very popular among the other pilots in his squadron, who borrowed the device to write letters home.
After the war, he married his sweetheart, Nita, began a career with Eastman Kodak Co., and started a family in the small town of Webster, N.Y. He and Nita raised three boys, instilling in them a love of the outdoors and enjoyment of camping, fishing and canoeing.
In retirement, McKibben and his wife built a house near Saranac Lake, New York, where he was active in the community and pursued his many hobbies, including golfing, fishing, fly tying and boating. Eventually, they moved to Yarmouth in order to be closer to family.
He was predeceased by his wife in 2000.
Later, McKibben decided to reconnect with his love of aviation, and became active in the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The chapter, based at Merrymeeting Field, a grass strip in Bowdoinham, was not unlike the place where he had begun flying, 60 years earlier.
Still a writer, McKibben volunteered to edit the chapter newsletter. Pilots became his second family, and he reconnected with veterans of the 352nd and attended many of their reunions. He also traveled to attend events such as the Red Bull Air Races, the EAA annual Wisconsin fly-in and the Gathering of Mustangs.
Meanwhile, he remained interested in and involved with the world around him. He expanded his collection of jazz recordings, was a dedicated sports fan (especially the Red Sox and Patriots) and enjoyed his special martini, “The Silver Bullet.”
McKibben is survived by his sons, Frank and wife, Ellen, Ted and wife, Holly, and Scott and wife, Martha; his grandchildren, Mary, Michael, Cody and Wyatt; an extended family and many friends.
A memorial service is planned for June 21.