Donald W. Moreau, Sr. - 1928-2017
One of the youngest members of the Greatest Generation, U.S. Army Col. (ret.) Donald W. Moreau, Sr., 89, died in his Center Point, Indiana, home on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, following a remarkable life that included a career devoted to military and public service, the love and steadfast partnership of two wonderful women, and the well-earned loyalty of an extended family and countless devoted friends. He was a genuine American hero who loved his family, God and country.
Don Moreau was a leap year baby, born February 29, 1928, and grew up in Vermont, which declared war on Germany prior to Pearl Harbor. His first enlistment in the Marine Corps at age 16 was thwarted by his father, but on his 17th birthday he enlisted in the Navy; through accelerated basic training, he was preparing for the invasion of Japan in the Philippines when the Japanese surrendered. Aboard his ship, he witnessed the formal surrender ceremonies in Tokyo Bay. He and his shipmates were ordered back to California, but they still had to endure countless kamikaze raids and mines. He mustered out and followed his high school basketball coach to a tiny college in Michigan, Adrian College, where he met Shirley Thompson. They married on June 5, 1948, two 20-year-olds. Before Shirley's death 44 years later, they raised two children, Suzanne (who predeceased Don) and Bill, and doted on five grandchildren: Suzanne's daughters Victoria (husband John Monfreda, sons William and James Hogston and Dalton Monfreda and daughters Anna Mae Hogston and Gigi Monfreda) and Stephene (husband Kevin VandenBrink, sons Sam and Benjamin and daughter Alia); and, Bill and his wife Ann's son Rashid Hallaway (wife Katie and daughters Barrett and Parker) and daughters Katie (husband Dan Boritt and sons Henry and Leo) and Elizabeth (husband Baxter Lusink and daughter-to-be Annie).In late 1948, Don was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, the product of a program to offer commissions to young men with good WW II records. This group of officers called themselves "mustangs" to distinguish them from West Point and ROTC graduates. When Don retired from the Army in 1973 as a Full Colonel, he was the last mustang on active duty. During his distinguished Army career he led troops throughout the U.S., Germany, Korea, and Vietnam, where he saw considerable combat, leading his commanding officer to conclude, "He was colorful and effective on the battlefield and frequently demonstrated bravery." "Colorful, effective and brave" were often used to describe Don, regardless of the mission or task.
Upon assignment to the Pentagon, he was promoted to Full Colonel at 41. He concluded his Army career in Fort Knox, with responsibility for the Armor branch's R&D. There, he successfully advocated against the development of an expensive, ineffective tank, earning the enmity of the entire defense establishment. His final commanding officer would write, "He is not a 'yes' man-[he] says what he thinks-but gets the job done efficiently and effectively." During his second career in Indiana state government, a succession of governors would reach the same conclusion.
When he retired from the military in 1973 -with almost 28 years credited service and just at age 45-Don had seen three wars, moved 22 times, and earned 34 decorations, including the Legion of Merit twice. He and Shirley moved to Hartford City, Indiana, to start a business with an old friend. When they sold the business, Don was called into service in Indiana state government, serving Governors Bowen, Orr and Bayh as director of, in succession, the Department of Commerce, State Student Assistance Commission, Indiana Toll Road Commission, Emergency Medical Services Commission, Department of Labor, Indiana State Fair and the Korean and Vietnam Wars Memorial Commission. Those three governors and successors O'Bannon, Kernan, Daniels, Pence and Holcomb each awarded Don a Sagamore of the Wabash, believed to be the most in Indiana history. In 2014, Don was named to the inaugural class of the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame.
In 1993, he married the former Linda (Decker) Long, who brought into the family three children, Joe Dierdorf (wife Diane and son Joey); Dee Smiley (husband Doug and children Molly Tipton (husband Shaun and children Elle and Owen), Robert Smiley (children Everett and Olivia), and Emily Litz (husband Jason and children Ian and Eva)); and, Ann Hine (husband Brian and children Crystal, Madison and Cade). On October 11, they would have celebrated 24 years of marriage. They enjoyed spending time with family and friends, perusing auctions, traveling extensively and volunteering at the State Fair.
Don was a founder of the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation (HVAF) in 1993 and HVAF's first CEO in 1998, which he ran with Linda at his side. Thanks to his efforts, thousands of Indiana veterans have been rescued from homelessness. After retiring as HVAF's CEO, he remained a leading supporter of the organization, and HVAF's Donald W. Moreau, Sr. Veterans House, which houses more than 30 formerly homeless veterans, is named in his honor.
At the age of 83, Don was elected to the first of two terms as a member of the Center Point Town Board. He served on the Clay County Sheriff's Merit Board for many years.
A calling will be held Sunday, August 27, 2017, 4-8 p.m. at Lawson-Miller Chapel, 1702 E. National Ave. (US40), Brazil, Indiana 47834. Don's funeral will be Monday, August 28, 2017, 11 a.m. at Center Point United Methodist Church, 200 S. Cherry St., Center Point, Indiana 47840. Lunch will follow the service.
A memorial honoring Don's military and public service career will be held Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at 4 p.m. in the Pershing Auditorium of the Indiana War Memorial, entrance at 51 E. Michigan Street, Indianapolis. A reception will follow.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to HVAF, 966 N. Pennsylvania Street, Indianapolis 46204, which will use the proceeds to maintain the Moreau House.
Don received outstanding, compassionate care from Dr. Prabhjot Pannu, his entire VA team and the world's finest cardiologist, Dr. Kirk Parr.
Published in The Indianapolis Star on Aug. 27, 2017.