Donald Romero went to be with our Lord on March 4, 2023. He was the second child born to Julianita (Esquibel) and Frank Rubel Romero in Aguilar, Colorado on August 17, 1921. His Birth Certificate reads Donaciano Celestino Romero. He was 101 years old, the last of the Romero name from Frank and Julianita. Don joined his seven siblings that have already passed: his brothers: Ben, Orlando, and Robert; and sisters: Rose, Ida, Jennie, and Julie.
He is survived by his daughter Janet Romero-Gaeke and Ralph Gaeke; numerous nieces and nephews and their children; his stepdaughter Velia’s children: Victoria Shaw Moore and Adrian Walker Moore.
His service will be at Shrine of Remembrance, 1730 E. Fountain Blvd., Colorado Springs, CO 80910 on March 21 at 10:00 AM. Viewing is at 9:00 AM. A celebration of life Reception will follow at 11:00 AM. at the nearby Olympian Plaza Reception and Event Center, 975 S. Union Blvd.
Don always held dear that he served as an Altar Boy in the church in Aguilar. As a child he had a vivid vision of God assuring him, Don, I will always take care of you. He had happy memories living on the farm in Aguilar. He recalled camping in the mouth of the Stone Face on the mountain not far from the farm with his brothers. He always felt a little guilty of the time he and his brother Ben were riding their horses to bring the cows down the hill. Needing to cross Trujillo creek, he threw a dirt clod in fun at his brother, causing Ben’s horse to bolt and Ben to fall into the creek. He loved his mother’s sugar cookies and eating apples from a neighbor’s orchard. Don graduated high school from Aguilar’s two room schoolhouse.
January 6, 1942 at nineteen he volunteered for service in the U.S. Army at Lowry Field. He was a member of the second class of students to undergo photo training. Then he was sent to Bangor, Maine to wait for further instructions. Then War was declared. In February, 1942, he left from Boston, destination unknown (later was learned to be Java) aboard the newly retrofitted for troops Queen Mary ship. It sailed to South America via Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he spent two weeks. Then he headed for Cape Town and it was during this journey across the Atlantic that Don’s ship heard the report that they had been sunk! So upon arrival at Cape Town they very definitely denied the report. The next stop was South Africa near Table Mountain to board more people (“500 nurses”). The Queen Mary sailed from Brisbane to Sydney, Australia. He completed Gunnery school through the Royal Australian Air Force. He was camping for two months at Randwick Racecourse there. There were free nightly dances in Sydney that he enjoyed. He was then assigned to a B-17 crew and headed for Port Moresby, New Guinea. The battle of the Coral Sea was raging. They had yet to receive photo equipment, so he joined regular bombing missions until their camera equipment arrived. In the Bismarck Sea battle his B-17, the “Red Moose” sank a heavy cruiser and shot down 8 Zeros, and Don was credited with 3 of these. Returning to its home base “The Moose” ran out of gas due to heavily damaged engines and was forced to make a crash landing. Two men were killed. Don suffered a broken arm. He was knocked unconscious and thrown through the bomb bay. He was returned to flying duty after one month in hospital. When distinguished members of Congress visited New Guinea late in 1943, his crew was selected to fly them on inspection tours. In a letter to his parents he remarked that he “had no days off to rest and now felt five years older in the way of things”. Several times the doctor needed to treat a recurring ear infection just before Don’s next assigned mission, preventing him from flying out. Each time, that mission did not return to base. He completed many more flying missions than the normal survival rate. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his 62 missions and 312 combat hours and the Air Metal with seven Oak Clusters. He also has the Presidential Citation, the American and Pacific Theater Ribbons, the American Defense Ribbon, and the Good Conduct Metal.
After WWII he was in Oklahoma for training when he met and fell in love with his sweetheart, Vivian Juanita McKee. They married in 1945 in California where they resided in Compton and then Diamond Bar for 25 years. Eventually they made Colorado their last permanent home.
In California Don worked as a manager and retired from, Arden Ice Cream manufacturing plant in Los Angeles. There was always a generous supply of ice cream at home.
Don played golf with the 21st Street Hackers of Arden Ice Cream, competing with other local clubs around Los Angeles. He enjoyed watching professional golf for many years. He sold real estate on weekends in California. After his retirement he loved gardening, digging and planting in their back yards. He was a football fan too and cheered on the Denver Broncos.
Don survived a freak storm where 33 boats requested Coast Guard rescue. He was on a 35-foot charter boat off South Laguna, California with 12 friends. The boat overturned and one man was drowned. Although he could not swim, God again took care of him, guiding his hand to air space under the capsized boat until rescued and brought back to Newport Beach.
Don and Vivian adored all little children. They also loved to travel and explored all around California and the neighboring states. There were also trips all over Mexico, a trip to Spain, Canada, Boston and Florida. He visited Hawaii and Italy with Janet and Ralph.
My Dad was a gracious and thankful man. He befriended and cheered the residents where he lived his last year at Life Care Center of Colorado Springs. He joked with the caregivers and nurses. A few weeks ago he was voted and crowned Mardi Gras King.
Even near very end of his earthly life he was shaking hands and thanking his nurses and doctor at the hospital. He surprised us by spontaneously starting to sing Take Me Home (Country Roads). The nurse in the room quickly put the music on her phone and we all joined in singing with him.
In some final words to us, and to you too, my Dad said, “In the end, family is all that matters.”