Of San Camillo Retirement Community in Milwaukee, formerly of Elm Grove, Wisconsin, found Eternal Peace Tuesday, August 25, 2020, at the age of 87. Donald was born in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania on September 18, 1932. An inspiring leader who loved most of all helping others rise to success in all endeavors of life.
Donald held himself to the highest standards of excellence from an early start. In high school, Donald was class president his junior and senior year, voted “most popular” by his graduating class, played baseball and football all four years, and captained his senior year football team to an undefeated 10-0 record and a state Pennsylvania championship in 1949. Recognizing he did not want to make his living on the football field, Donald made the difficult choice of turning down a Penn State football scholarship to attend one more year of college preparatory studies at Mercersburg Academy, before enrolling at Cornell University in the Fall of 1951.
Donald studied restaurant and hotel administration at Cornell, where he discovered his passion for the hospitality industry. He was a proud member of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, serving as steward of the house and as President of Cornell’s Interfraternity Council. He played baseball and football at Cornell. giving up his athletic shoes his senior year in exchange for being selected by the Dean of the Hotel School as the college’s first undergraduate Managing Director of Hotel Ezra Cornell since the event’s founding in 1925. The annual weekend-long event for leaders of the hospitality industry was a big success, propelling Donald into a life-long career in hospitality.
At Cornell, Donald met his true-love and life partner, Joan Marilyn (“Lyn”) Thomas, a fellow “hotelie” one year his junior. A devoted and loving husband to Lyn, the two were married the day after her graduation on June 12, 1956.
The couple’s first home together was in Japan, where Donald was stationed as food service director of the U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka, Japan. After two years, the couple returned to the East Coast of the U.S., where Donald began his civil career at the Slater Company, a contract food service company that later became a part of Aramark.
In 1966, Donald and his family moved to Milwaukee, to take the position as CEO and President of ACE Foods, a regional contract food service company. After seven years, Donald left the contract food service industry to pursue another culinary passion of his, fine dining, as Managing Director of Westmoor Country Club in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a position he held for 28 years. Donald developed an extremely talented food service team while at Westmoor, elevating the culinary experiences of the membership and mentoring the next generation of club industry leadership, an achievement that made him extremely proud. He was a member of the Chaine des Rotisseurs, the oldest gastronomic organization in the world, serving as the Wisconsin chapter’s Bailli. Donald also served as President of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association and as a member of the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors.
A student for life, Donald and Lyn formed their own consulting company in 1977, traveling the world together every year for culinary inspiration and sharing that knowledge and expertise with clients, and industry colleagues. Meanwhile, Donald never abandoned his interest in large-scale food operations, working for decades with one of the Midwest’s largest dinner theater operations and serving as the Food Committee Chairman of Milwaukee’s annual music festival, Summerfest, for more than 35 years. Never without a project, Donald worked tirelessly until shortly before he departed this world to improve the food service experience wherever he went, to bring people closer together around “the pleasures of the table.”
Donald is survived by his three children: Stephen (Michele), Diane (Bruce) and Jeffrey (Jennifer); and his beloved grandchildren: Connor and Tara. He was preceded in death by his wife of 51 years, Lyn Kennedy. Due to COVID-19, a small private gathering will be held in Donald’s memory on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 11:00am at Becker Ritter Funeral Home and streamed live online.
A memorial gift in honor of Donald may be made to the Trinity Church Foundation of Trinity Episcopal Church of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin.
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