MCDONALD II, WILLIS BURR (1930 ~ 2007). The following is an obituary for Willis Burr McDonald II, spouse of former Texas Legislator Nancy McDonald. The obituary was published in the Austin American-Statesman on August 30, 2008.
Willis Burr McDonald, II June 20, 1930 - Aug. 28, 2007
Retired Army officer Willis Burr McDonald, II, will be buried with full military honors at noon Friday, August 31, at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. McDonald will be laid to rest in a grave alongside his wife of 54 years, Nancy Hanks McDonald, a former State Representative from El Paso, who died earlier this year. McDonald, a retired Lt. Colonel, was a combat veteran of both Korea and Vietnam, and he commanded atomic artillery units in Germany during the cold war.
After retiring from the Army, McDonald earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas El Paso and worked as an enforcement officer for the Texas Office of the Comptroller. In recent years, McDonald devoted much of his time to two of his passions: working with the homeless - particularly young people and children - with the St. Vincent De Paul Society at St. Austin's Church, and writing. In 2005, he published an autobiographical military history, Cold War Warrior.
He is survived by nine of his ten children, 27 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. His wife, Nancy, preceded him in death on May 14 of this year. His daughter, Elizabeth Rose McDonald, also preceded him in death in 2005. McDonald's death came after surgery and a lengthy hospitalization and he wished to express his deep gratitude to the doctor's, nurses and staff at the Seton Medical Center and Cornerstone Hospital in Austin.
McDonald's greatest joy came in his large family of children and grandchildren, and he carried a virtual portfolio of photographs with him at all times - forcing friends and strangers alike to review the whole lineup of children if they paused for even a moment in his presence. All of his children grew up secure in the knowledge that while they were not pampered, they were loved. Those surviving children include six sons: Chuck and wife Donna of Austin, Chris and wife Cindy of Lumberton, Stephen and wife Vicki of Austin, Greg and wife Laura of El Paso, Brendan and wife Cheryl of Austin, Mark and wife Joyce of Austin; and three daughters: Nancy McDonald and husband Mark Siefken of Austin, Mary McDonald and husband Kent of Placitas, New Mexico, and Catherine Binswanger and husband Lewis of Tampa, Florida.
McDonald and his wife lived at a variety of military posts between 1955 and 1966, when they settled down in El Paso, Texas where all ten of their children graduated from high school. Subsequently, they retired in Austin in 1996 where they had purchased a small home during Nancy's service in the Texas Legislature.
McDonald grew up in Monterrey, California before graduating from the U.S. Army Dependents High School in Linz, Austria. He was among the first group of American children allowed to join their fathers in post-war Europe. It was also at this tiny American school that he met his future wife.
He was born June 20, 1930 in Phoenix, Arizona, the son of Charles Burr McDonald, II, and Mary Reynolds McDonald. He married Nancy Hanks on December 18, 1954. McDonald's parents, and sister Patricia McDonald, preceded him in death.
McDonald dropped out of college to enlist in the Army in February 1951 and served in Okinawa and Korea. After combat duty, he was sent to Artillery Officers Candidate School, receiving his officer's commission in February of 1955 and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. His next assignment was in Europe, where he was assigned to one of the first atomic artillery units in Germany, which used the 280 millimeter gun.
When he was deployed back to the United States he was assigned to the Combat Development Experimentation Center, testing the feasibility of combat tactics and techniques, most of which were later used in Vietnam. McDonald returned to Germany for a second tour commanding another 280 millimeter unit. When the Army moved to 155 millimeter guns, McDonald commanded a 155 atomic battery. He returned to the States in 1966, commanding a 155 battery.
His Vietnam combat service began in January 1967. After six months commanding an artillery unit he transferred to the Special Forces (Green Berets, Fifth Group) where he served an additional 18 months in Vietnam - first with a Special Operations unit in the DMZ where he earned his final promotion to Lt. Colonel. McDonald finished his tour of duty in Vietnam in Na Trang, where he was commander of defense for the city, an area of 365 square miles. He retired from the U.S. Army in 1971.
A visitation will be held at Weed Corley-Fish Funeral Home at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, August 30, followed by a 7:00 p.m. rosary service. The funeral Mass for McDonald will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. Friday, August 31, at St. Austin's Catholic Church, 2026 Guadalupe, where Mr. and Mrs. McDonald have been members for more than 20 years. The Rev. Jim Wiesner, CSP, President and Pastor of St. Austin's, will preside. Burial will follow at the Texas State Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Elizabeth Rose McDonald Nursing Scholarship Endowment to Promote Excellence in Nursing, The Seton Fund, 1201 W. 38th Street, Austin, TX. 78705, or by donating online at www.setonfund.org.
Further information is available through the Texas State Cemetery research department.