Donald L. Totten, F-100 pilot, “Headed West” on December 12, 2023.

Don was born in San Francisco, California on June 16, 1936. He passed away on December 12, 2023 at the age of 87.

He is survived by his wonderful and beautiful wife of 35 years, Reba Katherine Clarke; his son Donald; his daughter Kathryn and one estranged daughter, Kristen.

He lived the entirety of his early years in the city of San Francisco, CA. At age 11, Don worked delivering newspapers for the SF Call Bulletin. His division manager was Lee Uris, aka Leon Uris, the famous author. It was just after WWII and Lee had served in the US Marines, seeing combat at the island battles of Guadalcanal and Tarawa. At the time, he had yet to write his first book, “Battle Cry”.

Don attended The Presidio Junior High School, then George Washington High School, currently experiencing some controversy. He had a few notable classmates, Johnny Mathis, the recording artist, Lee Meriwether, aka Lee Ann Meriwether, the on-stage daughter of “Barnaby Jones”, and Albeth Filtzer, aka Albeth Paris, one of the “Paris Sisters”, who were recording artists in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

Upon graduation from high school, Don enrolled at San Francisco State University in June 1953. His major courses of study were Mathematics and Physics. He graduated, with honors, in June 1957. He received an ROTC commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Air Force. He was on the school’s soccer team and was a member of Delta Gamma Tau fraternity. During his junior and senior years, Don worked as a statistical analyst in the Actuarial Department for Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. After graduation he worked for the US Naval Ordnance Test Station in Pasadena, California as a test engineer. He worked primarily on the anti-submarine weapon system, “ASROC”.

In June 1958, Don reported for duty/flight training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX. His training lasted a little more than two years. His primary training was in Malden, MO. His basic training was in Greenville, MS. He received his wings in July 1959. He was assigned to F-100 fighter gunnery training that was conducted at Williams AFB in Chandler, AZ. After completing the advanced course at Nellis AFB in Nevada in August 1960, Don was assigned to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa.

In May 1962, Don volunteered to serve as an Air Advisor in support of the South Vietnamese Air Force. He was assigned as the single US advisor to the 3rd Liaison Squadron at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon, flying L-19 observation aircraft. His missions were reconnaissance, train and truck convoy support, and Forward Air Controller (FAC) support of South Vietnamese air operations. He returned to Kadena in November and immediately went to Nellis AFB to check out/upgrade to the F-105 Thunderchief. In the 1963-64 timeframe, Don was appointed Associate Professor of Mathematics, University of Maryland, Kadena Air Base extension. He taught classes in analytic geometry and calculus to military and military dependents across the island of Okinawa.

Don deployed to Da Nang, South Vietnam and flew his first combat missions over North Vietnam in February of 1965. His squadron moved to Korat Air Base, Thailand in March. His tour at Kadena having ended, he was transferred to Seymour Johnson AFB in North Carolina. Shortly after his arrival, his squadron, the 334th, was activated and deployed to Takhli Air Base, Thailand where they flew, weather permitting, daily combat missions over Northern Laos and North Vietnam. A newly established target of 100 missions determined the end of a combat tour. Don, together with his best friend, Ben Bowthorpe, were the first pilots to complete 100 missions on January 11, 1966. His squadron returned to the US in March. He resigned his commission and was released from active duty in June 1966, having completed eight years of active service.

Don immediately joined the IBM Corporation as a Systems Engineer. After completing his training program, he was assigned to the State of North Carolina account, supporting the newly arriving System 360 computer systems. He then transferred to a Marketing Representative position, still supporting the state of NC. During that assignment, the state installed the first legislative bill drafting and preparation system in the US. He also oversaw the installation of the first System 360 in the US at the NC Department of Corrections, and was instrumental in designing and proposing one of the first statewide law enforcement information networks.

In January of 1969, Don was promoted to a staff support position in the IBM State and Local Government support headquarters in Washington, DC. From that point forward, he moved to several different IBM locations, including Riverside, CA, Hong Kong, Columbia, SC, Atlanta, GA, Los Angeles, CA, Owego, NY, Springfield, VA and Lexington Park (Patuxent River Naval Air Station), MD. In Hong Kong, he was the Director of Marketing and Support for IBM Hong Kong. In Atlanta, he managed an engineering and scientific marketing and support organization in one of the two marketing divisions in IBM. In Los Angeles, Don was the IBM Account Executive for the TRW Corporation. He moved to Owego, NY in the fall of 1988. He managed several technical development projects. He ended his career as a Senior Program Manager, managing large government contracts, principally for the US Navy at PAX River NAS, MD.

In early 1994, IBM sold its Aerospace Development and Manufacturing business to the Loral Corporation who, in turn, sold it to the Lockheed Martin Corporation in early 1996, maintaining the same business model created by IBM. Don retired from Lockheed Martin in June 2004, after completing a career of a combined 38 years. He and Reba then moved to Asheville. Together with a good friend, Don built their current home in East Asheville. During his retirement, he was the volunteer board member and treasurer of the Riceville Volunteer Fire Department. Similarly, he was on the board and treasurer of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association. For eight years, he volunteered to help feed and shelter Asheville’s homeless by participating in the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville’s six-month program, “Saturday Sanctuary”, which provided afternoon meals and shelter.

Don always would say that the three most rewarding accomplishments in his life were, first, meeting and marrying his gracious and beautiful wife, Reba. Second was the honor of serving his country during some of its most turbulent years, serving with his highly respected and brave “comrades in arms”, many of whom endured unspeakable hardships at the hands of the enemy. Third was supporting his three children through graduation from major universities in the US, University of Southern California, University of Georgia and University of Alabama. His youngest daughter received a PhD in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Florida.

Memorial services are planned for the First Presbyterian Church of Asheville on January 13, 2024. Please call the church or funeral home for the starting time. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery later this year. He will be laid to rest with many of his “comrades in arms”. In lieu of flowers, his desire is for donations to be made to the “Tunnel to Towers” Foundation in Staten Island, NY (

Don’s family would like to thank the members of the Home-Based Primary Care team at the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville for their excellent and loving care over the past few years. The Critical Care Doctors and Nurses in the SICU at the VA were extraordinary in every way they cared for Don in his last days. We will be eternally grateful.

Groce Funeral Home’s Tunnel Road team is assisting the family.

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