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Don Witmer, A Black Lion has passed away

Donald R. Witmer 1946-2016  (Black Lion Co A 1/28th Infantry Regiment, Assn Member)
Donald R. Witmer, 70 of Massillon, Ohio, died on Friday, September 9, 2016 in Spencer, West Virginia from injuries sustained in an ATV accident.
He was born in Massillon on June 1, 1946 and was the son of the late Maurice and Blanche (Ward) Witmer.
He was a 1964 graduate of Washington High School. He then began his college education at Malone University where he set several school records in Track & Field. He also attended The Ohio State University before being drafted into the U.S. Army. “Donny” served with the First Division, The Big Red One in Vietnam and the 199th Infantry Brigade in Cambodia. Although he would never lay claim to the title, he was one of the original Tunnel Rats. Being the smallest in his platoon, he would perform underground search missions to ensure enemy combatants no longer posed a threat.
Following his military service, he enrolled at Kent State University and earned a Bachelor’s degree.
Upon his return from Vietnam, he was employed at Tyson Roller Bearings where he learned the basics of welding and fabrication which would keep him busy in the back yard for the rest of his life. He claimed he couldn’t weld, but built many items such as trailers, pig roasting equipment, safes and vaults. He was a compulsive collector: guns, knives, Jack Daniel’s bottles, safes, quarters, Massillon items, tools, nuts & bolts, scrap etc. He hated to buy anything he needed, and would spend four hours looking for a 25 cent item rather than run to the hardware store to buy it. The original picker, when asked why he kept all these things, he would only reply, “Someone might need it.” He kept literally tons of stuff on the off chance someone else might need it….and they did, and he shared.
In 1974 he started his career with the Massillon Police Department and served the city of Massillon for 37 years. He began as a Patrolman and earned promotions to Sergeant and Lieutenant, spending most of his career on midnight shift because that’s where the “Fun” was. He received many commendations for his actions and worked many high profile cases including
the 1976 Jeff LaPorte and 1983 Jodi Robinson homicides. He was the second longest serving police officer in the department’s history, retiring in 2012 with the rank of lieutenant.
His police service was not completed however, as he became a volunteer auxiliary patrol officer for the Beach City Police department. He was greatly concerned for his fellow officers, attending many training sessions in his retirement, and always trying to bring back those new ideas, concepts and techniques to his fellow officers at Beach City and Massillon when holding firearms qualifications and participating in other trainings.
“Wit” was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, Lifetime Member of the Stark County Gun Collectors Association and Lifetime Member of Henderson Lodge #105, Fraternal Order of Police and the Tennessee Squires Association. He was a member of 1st of the 28th Black Lions and the Society of the First Infantry Division military associations and enjoyed attending unit reunions. Although not formally a member, he would do anything for the local veteran’s organizations, or for any individual veteran. He was a driving force behind the creation of the Stark County Vietnam Veterans memorial and statue in Massillon’s Veteran’s Park. He also researched, compiled and published a book, “Not to be Forgotten,” containing biographies and photos of the Stark County casualties from the Vietnam war.
Donny was an avid hunter of anything, most recently it was primarily deer. He hunted from October through January, and spent February through September preparing for hunting season. He was checking out tree stand locations, when he was involved in his accident.
Everything he did was for family. If he liked you, you were family. Although he had a hard time saying things out loud, he greatly loved Alice, Rich, Steve and Cathy, always planning for their future. However, his great love was for his grandchildren. He was always talking about them and lit up when they came into a room. He was constantly bringing home something from garage sales for them, or taking them out to the workshop.
Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother Bud Witmer.
He is survived by his wife of 36 years, Alice (Parsons) Witmer, his son Stephen W. (Kathy)Short II, his daughter, Mary C. “Cathy” (Jeremiah) Kemp and his son Richard B. (Emily) Witmer. Also surviving are six grandchildren, Stephen W. (Amanda) Short III, Stephanie (Zack) Kieffer, Madison and Ripley Kemp and Bryan and Bailey Witmer and his great grandchildren, Ethan, Shannon and Sophia and a nephew, Marc Witmer.
Friends may call at the Paquelet Funeral Home on Tuesday from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. with the family present from 11a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.
A memorial service to celebrate and honor his life will take place at the funeral home on Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.

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