Donald E. Hinkle
1937, 2756, Farm Island, S-207
Hinkle, Donald 05/26/1916 - 04/11/2015
BONITA -- America's Oldest Marine Corps Iwo Jima Survivor Day's short of his 99th Birthday, Don Hinkle went to meet his Lord and Savior last Saturday morning. A living legend from The Greatest Generation, he was born on the Plains of South Dakota. He survived the Spanish Flu in 1918 and later worked to earn his first of many classic automobiles clearing poison ivy and building bridges with the CCC during The Great Depression. He spent five years as a Cattle & Sheep rancher only to find the Dust Bowl an unforgiving adversary. His turn at corn farming met similar setbacks with wildfires and locusts.
He answered his Nation's call to arms after Pearl Harbor enlisting in The Marine Corps. The country boy saw the Pacific for the first time from the Camp Pendleton training grounds in San Diego where he would earn his jump wings in the elite Para-Marines and soon after met the enemy with valor in Guadalcanal, Vela la Vela, Bougainville and Choiseul.
He landed with the 3rd wave on Red Beach 2 of Iwo Jima with the newly formed 5th Division Marine Corp; He survived the entire 36 days of active combat where "uncommon valor was a common virtue." He lost his best friend Doug Ghoulson in the first hours of combat and later on liberty gave his life to Jesus at a Billy Graham Revival.
Don married his hometown sweetheart, La Rayne, who was a real-life Rosie the Riveter in the Kaiser shipyards of Oregon. After The War, Don made one more attempt at life in South Dakota as a trucker, contractor, school custodian and lastly a Mobil Filling Station Operator before the melody of "South of The Border" lured him back to the Imperial Beaches of California. There he found his second calling as a fireman and 22 years later retired as Assistant Fire Chief at Imperial Beach Fire Department NAS in 1977.
Just as busy in retirement, he set about fixing up dilapidated rental properties, helped construct Midway Baptist Church and spent summers with family in a variety of used Class C motorhomes. His 3rd and final chapter was as "Mayor of the Manor" in a small enclave of Old Bonita where he shared his knowledge of animal husbandry with leagues of young 4-H'ers. He danced at the 69th Iwo Jima Reunion in Camp Pendleton with his lovely bride of 72 years and took home the great honor of "Oldest Living Iwo Jima Marine in America."
Don is survived by his wife LaRayne (Brown), 6 proud children Patricia and Michael Gailband, Sharon and Robert Inpyn, Don and Erin Hinkle, Theresea and Ivan Berwager, Shirley and Pat McGuire, Jauhn and Jennifer Hinkle, 11 grandchildren, 14 great grandchildren and 1 great-great grand- daughter. Services and a Celebration of this Great American Hero will take place at Sweetwater Community Church, 5305 Sweetwater Road, Bonita, California this Sunday, April 19 at 2PM.
Just as their dining table and hearts were open to many a foster child or hungry neighbor kid, all are welcome to come celebrate Don Hinkle with his grateful family.
Published by San Diego Union-Tribune on Apr. 16, 2015.
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