Mr. Donald P.'s Story

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We feel a cosmic shift when one of The Greatest Generation passes. Mr. Donald P. Hayes, Sr., resident of Andover for over 65 years and beloved husband of the late Grace E. (Moore) Hayes, passed away at the Holy Family Hospital in Methuen on Tuesday morning, December 6, 2016. He was 97 years old.
Born in Groton, Connecticut, Donald was the beloved son of the late Patrick J. and Milena Rosanna (Lussier) Hayes. Growing up in Somerville, Mass., he played the violin and ran on his high school track team, placing second at state competition in the standing broad jump. After graduating from Somerville High in 1937, Don worked days at Hood Rubber and attended college at night to earn an Associates Degree in Chemical Engineering from Northeastern University.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked Don enlisted in the U.S. Navy, entering the military at Chapel Hill, North Carolina on February 7, 1942, and receiving his honorable discharge from Boston on November 20, 1945. At military training Don ran an obstacle course with his group during which he became separated from the group and so poured on the steam trying to catch up. Crossing the finish line, he discovered he had set a time record—he was in front of his group!
Lieutenant Hayes flew as pilot of Lockheed PV1 and PV2 bomber airplanes in the Pacific out of land bases in Guam, Munda, Guadalcanal and Midway Islands, against the Japanese. Best visits with him included flying stories. During training, he and a buddy buzzed a Women’s Army Corps in Florida, making the ranks break to hit the sand! Another story speaks of logic and divine guidance (Don felt). The plane was returning to Midway Island, far out in the Pacific, in a severe thunder and lightening storm on empty fuel tanks. His crew were afraid they’d missed the island—navigation equipment was in its infancy—but Lt. Hayes kept the heading steady, the last known correct heading for conditions. Suddenly the cockpit flashed white for a second. A pause—then he realized they’d passed through the light beacon that shines straight up from Midway. He spiraled down and landed on fumes, all crew safe.
In civilian life, Don worked at Gillette, then left to start and run his own business, Hayes Last Remodeling, Co., in Haverhill, Mass., which modified the toe shape of shoe lasts as styles changed. A last is the plastic (or wood) solid form around which shoe manufacturers wrap leather (or other material) to build a shoe. The business lasted about 35 years. Twelve of those years, Don served as Commissioner in Boy Scouts for the Northern Essex Council (now absorbed into the Spirit of Adventure Council). After retiring in 1985 he enjoyed travel with Grace to many countries, the western U.S., and to annual reunions of his WWII Squadron VPB148. The Red Sox’s long-awaited World Series championships also brought him great joy.
Don was “Papa” to his grandchildren, who arrived 1971 to 1991. All enjoyed his magic shoulder as his kids had. His whole life he loved nothing better than holding a baby. Even the fussiest would soon settle. Great-grandchildren these last 13 years enjoyed Papa’s shoulder, too, the most recent just a few weeks old snuggling with him on Thanksgiving Day.
Looking back, Dad said to his three children, “I didn’t raise you; your mother raised you.” He was thinking of the 1950s and 1960s, a focus on getting his business off the ground and responding to the challenges of staying in business. He had an ideal of perfection no one else could meet; he did much of the work himself in long hours Monday through Friday plus Saturday mornings to do the books. On later reflection he had an uneasy view of it. What he didn’t realize, though we tried to tell him, was that he absolutely did raise us! He set an example of how to be the salt of the earth, a person who gets things done, who shows love to others rather than talks about it, who never yelled at his children, and always had a soft spot for them and for their friends and for our pets. His lifelong interest in science, gardening, birds, travel, fishing, and politics pointed the way for us, too. Those times he was able to pry himself away from the business and be with his growing children were precious, much enjoyed, and much appreciated.
A man passes through many stages. What Dad never lost from youth to old age was a curiosity, an openness. His thinking never ossified. He began life accepting what the Catholic Church of the time taught him, but if something didn’t sit right, the older he got the more he would think about it rather than blindly accept. Sometimes this was uncomfortable but he didn’t shrink from that. He felt despite some teachings he had received to the contrary, God is a God of love more than anything. Dad felt that when it came to faith, love outweighed everything, and everyone is included regardless of skin color, sexual orientation, or anything else.
As Don’s descendents, we can only hope to do our best to live up to the ideals set by him and to continue the love he brought to this earth.
Don was the loving father of Donald P. Hayes, Jr. of Lowell; Diane A. Traynor and her fiance, David C. Caponera, both of Merrimack, New Hampshire; and Melanie Grace Nesheim and her husband, William A. Nesheim of Windham, New Hampshire. Don was the devoted brother of Ruth Castor of Boscawen, New Hampshire. He leaves nine grandchildren, Noelle Morin, Louise Beal, Sarah Barr, Patrick Traynor, Erin Barrett, Heather Hayes, Jill Hayes, Brendan Nesheim, and Amelia Sreter; fifteen great-grandchildren, Daniel, Michael, Sean, Dyllon, Mason, Luke, Malcolm, Gideon, Zecheriah, Alexander, Molly, Charlotte, Judah, Paloma, and Sabine; and many nieces and nephews. He was also the brother of the late Marguerite J. Jarvis and Leon Hayes.
Don’s funeral Mass will be celebrated in St. Michael Parish, 196 Main Street, North Andover, MA on Friday, December 16, 2016, at 10 a.m. Relatives and friends are most welcome to attend. Calling hours will be held in the Burke-Magliozzi Funeral Home, 390 North Main Street, Andover, MA on Thursday, December 15, 2016, from 4 to 8 p.m. Interment will be held in the Spring Grove Cemetery in Andover, Mass. Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the American Military Heritage Foundation, Inc., P.O. Box 29061, Indianapolis, IN 46229. This 501(c)(3) non-profit keeps a WWII airplane flying, the type Don flew.
For additional information, please visit www.burkemagliozzi.com.
Published on  December 11, 2016
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