Like so many of his generation, Don Scott lived a life of distinctly drawn values. He was a man who quietly responded to his duty to serve his country during World War II, delaying his marriage to my Aunt Audrey Bundy, and becoming a veteran of campaigns in North Africa and Italy.
We first learned at his funeral last month that Don — my only remaining uncle, who died at age 97 — was awarded a Bronze Star for combat operations in Anzio, Salerno and Casino. He never talked about it in the six decades that I knew him.
Not only modesty, but other values punctuated Don’s life. A child of a painful divorce, he and his sister lived with their mother in a small apartment during the 1920s-’30s, with everyone working to pay the overhead. Don was a man of lifelong self-reliance and responsibility.
Early on, he was a leader, in his unassuming way, graduating from Des Moines North High School as class president and earning all-city honors as a football center. Don was offered a partial scholarship to go to Iowa State to play ball but, for financial reasons, he was unable to do so.
Returned from war to marry
Don returned stateside after the war to marry my aunt and, after a few years, have one son, Ron, a Vietnam era graduate of West Point who married, had a family, and went on to a successful career in business in Tennessee.
A card-carrying Teamster’s Union member, Don drove a truck for a grocery wholesaler serving rural communities in Iowa and Minnesota, rising very early in the morning five days a week but always home in the afternoon to be with his family, which for many years included his mother, “Shorty.”
After retiring, Don worked for years as a van driver, serving severely handicapped children in need of transportation. He was an active Mason; he easily and comfortably made many friends from differing walks of life. Don’s house, where he lived independently until the day that he passed away, was uncommonly neat and well-ordered. His car, which he drove daily, was in the garage.
On the morning of the day that he died, Don confided to a coffee-break friend at the local Hy Vee that he had felt a spiritual presence the previous evening, thinking that it must have been Jesus in his room.
Don’s wife of 62 years had died peacefully in 2008, Audrey’s long life no doubt a result of his years of care and attention.
Part of his legacy: football
As part of Don’s legacy, Ron, grandson Jayson and great grandson Cooper have played as offensive centers in football, too. In significant ways, now two generations have followed in Don’s footsteps, especially in nurturing unusually close father-son relationships.
I am proud that my uncle, Donald Scott, was a certified member of the “Greatest Generation,” as Tom Brokaw has identified those who came of age during the Great Depression and World War II.
One Armed Forces estimate is that 1,500 American veterans of that distinguished era are dying each day.
Chuck Slocum is the president of the Williston Group, a management consulting firm based in Minnetonka. He can be reached at Chuck [at] WillistonGroup.com.