WOODSTOCK – Donald W. ""Blacky"" Milinac, 84, of Woodstock, died Monday, Feb. 18, 2013, at his home, surrounded by his loving family.
He was born May 31, 1928, in Chicago, to John and Gunhilda (Carlson) Milinac. On Dec. 4, 1952, he married Shirley Mae Glosson.
Blacky rode with the wind in his face for over 50 years. That's a lot of breeze for an ordinary man, but Blacky was far from ordinary. For him, the wind was just another element to be conquered. In the end, the wind only served to fuel his extraordinary passion for life – urgently, obsessively and sometimes explosively.
After enlisting at the age of 17 in the Army Air Corps and completing Aircraft Mechanics School at Keesler AFB in Biloxi and Chanute AFB in Rantoul, he reported to Hickam Field in Hawaii in 1947. His love of aviation and the complexities of the warbirds remained lifelong standards. Some guys love airplanes; other guys build a jet plane in their garage. That was Blacky, handcrafting and hand riveting aircraft-grade aluminum in his own private hangar. He had the vision and the talent to materialize his dreams.
It was in Hawaii where he rode his first Harley-Davidson. He ""rode for the brand"" for more than 50 years, embracing life on the open road with his beloved Shirley, the Motor Company brethren, the Shangri-la of Sturgis and, of course, the wind.
After mustering out of the service in 1949, Blacky purchased a 1942 Indian Four in Oakland, Calif. He rode it back to McHenry County in February, 64 years ago this month.
It only took a spark to ignite hours of intense discussion on the mysteries of the ancient Egyptians; how to hunt for buried treasure; weapon specifications of fighter planes; the migration habits of waterfowl, puddle ducks, diving ducks; winter habitat of the teal; and his unbridled fascination with the Canada goose.
Blacky took great pride as a shotgunner, once shooting 100 of 100 in a trap shoot competition. Years after he sold his eclectic shotgun collection, he would still shoot geese from the sky with an imaginary 12-gauge.
Witness this many times and one knew he was actually sighting his target. About every 10th time, he'd turn and say ""I missed that one.""
After retiring as a ready-mix driver for Meyer Material, Blacky's attention turned to boats. He had served on the Wilford Sykes, a Great Lakes ore carrier in the early '50s. It seemed he wanted to get back on the water. Within a few years, his personal flotilla of a dozen project boats became the object of his focus. Many sleepless nights were spent blueprinting ideas in his head that his hands could fabricate.
Cast-off items of others were a treasure trove for Blacky. He spent hours, days and weeks cutting, refinishing and rebonding salvage items to meet his stringent requirements.
He could look at you with an intensity that made you fidget. You didn't want to make him mad because he was a dead shot. You wanted to make him happy but were a little afraid of what it might take.
As a traveling companion, he never complained. He loved a fire, good company and a cocktail. Anyone who met Blacky had to admit he was truly an American original.
The sun rose Monday morning without him, and we have a feeling our lives won't be half as interesting. At least for a while. Nostrovia, Blacky.
He is survived by two daughters, Donna (Jim) Goad of Walworth, Wis., and Diane (Robert) Embach of Woodstock; four grandchildren, Lauren (Kevin Samsa) Schlendorf, Ciara Ruffino, Anthony (Brie Williams) Ruffino and Dana Keller; two great-grandchildren, Corwin and Mason; a brother, Bud (Bonnie) Milinac of Hebron; three sisters-in-law, June Milinac, Sandra (Roger) May and Charlene (Bruce) Peck; five brothers-in-law, Don Peterson, Douglas (Jackie) Glosson, Ronald (Sally) Glosson, Gene (Nancy) Glosson and Dean (Frances) Glosson; many nieces and nephews; several great-nieces and great-nephews; and a great-great-nephew.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Shirley, on April 19, 2011; a brother, Carl Milinac; and a sister, Jean Peterson.
The visitation will be from noon until the 2:30 p.m. service Thursday, Feb. 21, at Justen Funeral Home & Crematory, 3700 W. Charles J. Miller Road, McHenry. Interment will be in Ringwood Cemetery, Ringwood.
His family suggests memorials to either Hospice of Northeastern Illinois, 405 Lake Zurich Road, Barrington, IL 60010, or to Friends of Hackmatack, National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 413, Richmond, IL 60071-0413.
His family would like to extend a special thank you to Char Peck, Judy Bottcher and Kelly Glass for their love and care.
For information, call the funeral home at 815-385-2400, or visit www.justenfh.com
, where friends may leave an online condolence for his family.