Donald Wentworth Kitchin Jr., age 96, passed away peacefully about 7 a.m. Monday, April 21, 2014, while residing at the Crestfield Rehabilitation Center in Manchester. He will be greatly missed.
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Born in Wellesley, Mass., on Feb. 15, 1918, to Donald Wentworth Kitchin Sr. and Evelyn Amanda Swett, he was the eldest of three brothers, Donald, Charles, and Robert. Growing up, he spent summers in the large farmhouse built in the late 1700s on Bustins Island, Maine (still standing); learned to drive; and made his first major investment, a Hampton boat that transported him to odd jobs around Casco Bay and was powered by a 1903 Buffalo L-head marine engine, which kindled his lifelong fascination with engines. He attended Middlebury College in Vermont until the attack on Pearl Harbor when all three brothers enlisted. Don joined the Navy and took flight training, rising through the pilot ranks to lieutenant commander, flying PBYs out of Brazil looking for enemy U-boats preying on Allied shipping entering and leaving the Panama Canal. After the war ended, Don returned to school to finish his mechanical engineering degree at Tufts University in Massachusetts, bought a canary yellow 1932 Plymouth Roadster, and took a job with GE in Pittsfield, Mass., where he met Phyllis Isabelle Nute whom he married June 26, 1949, settling down in Lanesboro, Mass., where their son, David, was born in December 1950. Preferring to work in the aircraft engine industry, Don took a job at Jacobs Aircraft and moved the family to Kimberton, Pa., in 1952 where the family lived until 1964. In October 1954, their daughter, Gail, was born; and Don, having discovered the existence of the H.H. Franklin Antique Car Club, made arrangements with a fellow member to swap 100 hours of machine-shop work for a car identical to the one he first learned to drive, a 1929 Franklin sedan. While in Pennsylvania, Don worked for a time at Hollingsworth, an emergency generator manufacturer, and at Pressure Products Industries, making rotary joints that have to pass across high-pressure boundaries. He was also active in the local volunteer fire department, a music appreciation group, a local antique car club, and made custom parts for his own and other antique cars. Desiring to get back into the aircraft engine business, in 1963 Don took a job with Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut and commuted back and forth weekends to Pennsylvania for an entire year. Over the summer of 1964, the family moved to South Windsor, renting a house for a year on Avery Street before moving around the corner to the house on Beelzebub Road. After several years at Pratt as a senior mechanical design draftsman, Don availed himself of an opportunity to change careers to metrology where he became expert at the delicate task of selecting and weighting blades in order to dynamically balance gas turbine shafts so they do not vibrate or damage the engine at speed. Working in conjunction with other gas turbine companies, Don developed procedures adopted by the National Institute of Standards & Technology for balancing high-speed rotating engines, attending a number of working committee meetings in Washington, D.C. Don retired from Pratt & Whitney in 1983, however, he kept active in the field of engineering by researching and locating significant historic sites around New England for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME, and continuing to make replacement car parts for other Franklin owners. He enjoyed driving his Franklin around town, giving people rides and participating in local parades. His pride and joy one year was having Mrs. Barbara Bush ride as a passenger in his car.
Don was predeceased by his wife in February 2014 and is survived by both of his children, Gail (Gail and Bill Bruce in New Hampshire) and David (David and Kathleen Kitchin in Maryland); and two grandchildren, Anna and Schuyler Kitchin.
Memorial donations may be made to the H.H. Franklin Club Inc., or to Wapping Community Church.
A memorial service for both Phyllis and Donald is planned for June 2014.
Samsel & Carmon Funeral Home has care of the arrangements.
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Samsel & Carmon Funeral Home
419 Buckland Road
South Windsor, CT 06074-3709
Published in Journal Inquirer from Apr. 23 to Apr. 27, 2014