DONALD WINGFIELD HOBART (Colonel-USAF, retired)
took off on his final flight from Houston, Texas, on September 13, 2013, when he "put out his hand and touched the face of God" at the age of 84. Don was born in Richwood, West Virginia, the youngest son of Frederick and Grace Hobart, on July 21, 1929. He had one sister and three brothers, all of whom predeceased him. After graduating from high school in Richwood, where he played football and basketball, he attended Concord University in Athens, West Virginia. There, in 1949, he met Bettie Sue Platt, who would become his beloved wife in a loving marriage that lasted 61 years. Don earned his Bachelor's degree from Southeastern Oklahoma State University and attended St. Edward's University for graduate work. During his junior year of college, when the Korean conflict
was ongoing, Don enlisted in the Air Force. Following basic training and training as a radio technician, he was accepted into the Radar Observer Cadet Program at James Connally AFB, where he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant upon graduation in September 1952. In the fall of 1953, he was admitted into pilot training, in spite of the fact that his 6'5" height threatened to disqualify him from being able to fit into the cockpits of fighter aircraft. After this pilot training, he was assigned to Korea, where he flew border patrol in the T-6 aircraft for a year. Upon returning to the U.S., Don was assigned to Perrin AFB in Sherman, Texas, as a Public Information Officer. He spent every available weekend flying and accumulating hours on cross-countries in any available aircraft for which he was qualified - the B-25, B-26, T-33. After 4 years there, his globe-trotting years started when he was transferred to Sculthorpe AFB in England where he joined the 47th Bomber Wing, flying the B-66. That assignment was followed by a transfer to Phalsbourg AFB, France, where he joined the 480th TFS of the 366th TFW and realized his lifelong dream of becoming a fighter pilot. The 366th's transfer back to the U.S. in the summer of 1963 landed him at Holloman AFB in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Don's first assignment to the war zone in Southeast Asia came in 1965, when he went with the 480th TFS to Da Nang Air Base in Vietnam flying the F-4 Phantom. A year later, an assignment to the Systems Command at Holloman Air Force Base sent him back to Alamogordo, New Mexico, where he eventually headed up the Fighter Branch of the Test Pilot Program. A transfer back to an active Tactical Air Command Squadron, the 9th TFS of the 49th TFW, finally led him to the position that would define him as a leader who inspired men to trust in him, in themselves, and in each other - the Commander of the 8th Tactical Fighter Squadron, known as "The Black Sheep." Reverently and respectfully known as the "Chief Sheep," Don led his squadron into battle in 1972 as they participated in F-4 air strikes over Vietnam from Takhli Air Base, Thailand. Before going with these men into hostile territory, Don committed to their loved ones that he would return with all the men who were leaving - and he did. His love and commitment for the Black Sheep continued throughout his life. Upon returning, once again, to the U.S., Don received assignments to Langley AFB, Virginia; Yokota Air Base, Japan; Director of Operations, Osan Air Base, Korea, and, finally, to Bergstrom AFB in Austin, Texas, where he retired on August 31, 1979. During those memorable years in the Air Force, he received many medals and recognitions, including the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star
, the Combat Readiness Medal, the Air Force Medal, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. Don's retirement years found him active in many organizations and positions that were connected to the military. He was the Director of the Vietnam Veterans
Leadership Program (VVLP) in Austin, Director of the Bergstrom AFB Retired Activities Office (RAO), and the Texas representative to the Air Force National Retiree Council for 4 years. Other organizations with which he was involved included the Air Force Association (AFA), the VFW
, the American Legion, the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots' Association (River Rats), the Austin Association of ACES, the Daedalians, and the National Association of Uniformed Services (NAUS). Eclipsing his love for the Air Force, though, was the love Don felt for his family, which was exemplified by the unique, devoted relationships he had with his wife, twin daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Surviving him are his wife, Bettie; daughter and son-in-law Debra Sue and Peter Hamilton; daughter and son-in-law Donna Lynne and Eli Harden; grandchildren who were proud to call him Poppa: Kara Hay Comte and husband, Joe; Donald Hay and wife, Elizabeth; Tamara Teel Murphy and husband, Brian; and Rachel Teel; and nine great-grandchildren. He will be deeply missed by his family and those he leaves behind, including many friends and extended family, and especially those men of his beloved Black Sheep. The influence he leaves on them will extend through the years, making those who have known him and been a part of his life better for having had him in their lives. Don was a passionate animal lover, whose house was known as "the place to go" if you were a stray dog or cat who needed a place to call home. We know he will be joyfully reunited with those who are waiting for him at Rainbow Bridge, including Brownie, Snowflake, Duke, Rosie, Spicy and Kit-Cat, along with many other family pets who knew him as someone special, indeed. Funeral services for Don will be held on Monday, September 23, 2013, at 1:00 p.m. at American Heritage Funeral Home, 10710 Veterans Memorial, Houston, Texas. Burial will follow at the Houston National Cemetery, where he will receive full military honors facilitated by the United States Air Force and members of the Black Sheep Squadron. The family will be receiving visitors on Sunday, September 22, 2013, from 3:00 - 5:00 at American Heritage Funeral Home. In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests, with gratitude, that memorial contributions in Don's name be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, 4899 Bellfort Road, Jacksonville, Florida 32256. Don's family particularly wishes to thank the nurses, nurses' assistants, and doctors at Houston Hospice who provided such loving care and support for him and his family during the last week of his life.