Cover photo for Derek James Donovan's Obituary
Derek James Donovan Profile Photo

Derek James Donovan

Colonel Derek “Moondog” Donovan, USMC (retired) completed his last flight and passed away after an aggressive dogfight with esophageal cancer. Cancer may have won the battle but Moondog got his licks in. His 65 years on the planet included multiple dog years so the actual total was considerably higher.

He leaves behind his lovely and vivacious wife Kathryn; daughter Emily (Zac Cirocco); son Morris Bell Jr. (Shasta L’Heureux); Mother Reba Donovan; brothers Daniel Donovan and David Donovan; sister Dawn Donovan Felchle; four amazing grandkids: Kaylee Ann Bell, Kierra Lee Bell, Derek Christopher Cirocco, and Coyote James Cirocco; and his beloved lesbian mistress and drinking partner Teresa Jackson-Cooper. Derek spent a considerable amount of time over the years with his daughter’s Boston Terriers: Chuck, Annie, and Kevlar and felt strongly that they should be included in any list of his next-of-kin.

Derek graduated in 1976 from Grandview High School in Grandview, Missouri, and while “excelled” might be a little strong, he was first team all-conference and co-captain of the basketball team during his senior year and a member of the National Honor Society. Although his guidance counselor felt strongly that he was more well suited towards vocationally oriented training he surprised many when he was accepted by and received the financial aid necessary to attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He worked his way through college in a variety of trades including a job with a freight company that required membership in the Teamsters Union. He was proud of the fact that his extensive educational loans were all paid in a timely and responsible manner. In what was considered a win-win by both parties, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University with the agreement that he would not return to the campus until all applicable statutes of limitations had expired.

He joined the United States Marine Corps in 1981 via the Officer Candidates Course with an aviation contract. Following his commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant, he attended The Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico and subsequently attended flight school at NAS Whiting Field, Florida, earning his wings as a Naval Aviator in 1983. Designated a Huey helicopter pilot, his initial squadron was the North Carolina based HMLA-269, Gunrunners. His callsign, “Moondog” was awarded in recognition of a totally irreverent sense of humor and a great appreciation for a well-conceived practical joke. Moondog’s extensive operational background included deployments and affiliations with the Gunrunners, Golden Eagles, Blue Knights, Warriors, Ugly Angels, and Black Knights. He flew over 3500 flight hours, visited over 70 countries, lived aboard U.S. Naval vessels for more than four years of his life, qualified in (8) different Military Occupational Specialties including Weapons Tactics Instructor, and learned to order a beer in over 40 different languages; many similarities exist in that last skill set.

His non-operational assignments included being the first Marine selected as Aide-de-Camp to the Secretary of the Navy which was an ultimate “great-job-to-have-had” experience and came with multiple “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. He was the Commanding Officer of the Marine Corps Air Facility at MCAF Quantico, Virginia and as any Marine can tell you, there’s nothing more rewarding than being in command and Moondog would testify to that. His last assignment before retiring was with the Presidential Commission for the Care of America’s Returning Wounded Warriors co-chaired by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala. This final tour was bittersweet because there is nothing worse than a Marine who only wanted to serve his country in combat going to the Pentagon while his wife went to war in Iraq. Those home fires burned fiercely with the help of a loving and patriotic mother-in-law Carole Allen and an equally supportive teenage daughter, Emily Jane.

Marines generally consider themselves to be a tough bunch, both on active duty and after they have hung up their flight suits, but Moondog’s post-retirement life saw him engaged in what he would consider, by far, the toughest job in the Naval Service—Navy spouse. He found that there is no stronger, more resilient, or more accomplished group of individuals than military spouses and their service was equally noteworthy to that of his fellow Marines. Derek also found employment in the nonprofit world working for Fisher House Foundation. Service to military families was highly rewarding and the family behind this worthy cause is held in his highest regard.

“Retirement-retirement” was filled with an abundance of volunteer activities including being an election official, interviewing prospective students for his alma mater, and giving driving lessons to local youth. He took peculiar pride in being a member of the Order of the Kentucky Colonels, an ordained, nondenominational minister (via-the-internet), and a life member of almost every known Veteran’s Service Organization. His greatest pride and pleasure had always resonated from the ladies in his life, Kathryn, and Emily, until blessed with grandchildren who shockingly eclipsed everything that had previously registered on the joy-meter. Derek was known to his family and friends as fiercely loyal, ethical, irreverently humorous, and a man who always chose to use his “superpowers” to do good and sought out the worst volunteer missions available. He will be remembered by those whose path he crossed with a smile and an affirmative head nod to a life well lived.

There will be an Irish Wake to honor a dear Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Grandfather, Uncle, Friend, and Marine at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, 1775 Semper Fidelis Way, Triangle, Virginia 22172 in the coming months.

In lieu of flowers, tributes to a regret-free life are encouraged to be made to the cause that you feel most appropriately “pays it forward” and would put a smile on Moondog’s face.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Derek James Donovan, please visit our flower store.


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