CAPT Donald Gilbert Gregory, USN (Ret.)
Don was born in 1931 near Rhineland, Missouri to Lowell E. and Georgia May Gregory. He attended Bethany High School, and Northwest Missouri State College. Rather than be drafted, he joined the Navy as an Aviation Cadet in late 1951.
Earning his commission and Naval Aviator wings in September 1953, he was trained as a fighter pilot flying the F6 Hellcat and T-33s in Kingsville Texas. He was assigned to fly F2H-2 Banshees with VF-101 in Jacksonville, FL. This included an around-the-world cruise on the USS Midway with Air Group I. He transferred to the Naval Reserves, serving in VF-886 while attending University of Kansas from 1956-1958. After getting married, he returned to active duty, serving 3 ½ years as an Advanced Tactics and Gunnery Flight Instructor flying F9F Cougars in VT-25 at Beeville Texas, followed by deployments as a plankowner on the USS Constellation (CV-64).
Don returned to Pensacola for helicopter training in 1963, subsequently serving with HS-9 aboard USS Essex (CVS-9). He was selected to attend the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, where he completed his BA degree in 1968. This was followed by assignment as XO, and later Commanding Officer of the HC-7 Seadevils based in Atsugi, Japan, providing combat search and rescue and fleet support to Vietnam operations and ships throughout the western Pacific. He then was assigned to the Naval War College in 1970 as a student and a staff member, completing his Masters Degree in International Relations from George Washington University in 1973. He served for five years in Washington, D.C. working in aviation research and development, including initial work on what later became the V-22 Osprey. His final assignment was to Pensacola, FL, on the staff of the Chief of Naval Education and Training (N3 Division), from where he retired from the Navy in 1979. His awards during his military career include the Meritorious Service Medal, and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Don often expressed appreciation for how fortunate he was to have had careers in which he always looked forward to going to work each day, and for the excitement of each new assignment. He loved to fly and had logged almost 8,000 hours of flight time in both military and civilian aircraft.
Don was married to Louise Sturm for over 64 years. Together, they raised 3 sons, Lowell Christopher, Nathan Sterling, and Gilbert Keith. They have four grandchildren, Don, Allison, Stephanie, and George. Don leaves four sisters, Dorothy, Doris, Dolores, and Donna, and many nieces and nephews. His sons Gilbert and Nathan preceded him, losing their battles with illness far to soon.
Don lived a full life and had many hobbies and friends, and a variety of interests. He was an automobile enthusiast, owning many antique and performance cars over the years. He was also a private pilot, holding single engine, multiengine, instrument, and instructor ratings, and was rated as an Air Transport Pilot in helicopters. He owned boats and recreation vehicles and was still riding his motorcycle at the age of 88. He travelled extensively, visiting all 50 states and many foreign countries. He loved to read and was especially fond of country music. He served as a volunteer with the National Park Service and the American Red Cross and served as a mentor with the Escambia County School System. He was past President of the local AACA (Antique Auto Club), WBCCI (Airstreamers club), and was a life member of the Retired Officers Association, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation, and Association of Naval Aviation. He was also a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the N.R.A. He loved to play golf (but never mastered the game), and his bridge playing was of the “conversational” variety.
He always said it was a great ride, and he’d love to do it all over again. Working on cars with Nat, travelling and hiking with Gil, and flying with Chris may have been highlights of his family life. However, he said that his “greatest fortune was to find a dark haired girl to love (Louise) who stood by him through all his travels and elusive dreams”.