PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Donald Ginther was born June 20, 1939 to Fred and Marie Ginther and raised in Fresno, California. He has two older brothers and one sister, Norman, Evelyn and Rodney. Don attended Kirk Elementary, Edison Jr/Sr High School, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1957.
Don joined the 144th Fighter Interceptor Group, a California Air National Guard outfit in Fresno in 1957. He entered the active Air Force in 1958, where he spent the next nine years. Cook Air Force Base had just had a name change to Vandenberg Air Force Base, and no one seemed to know where Vandenberg was located. Interestingly, after his assignment to Vandenberg, Don sat home for nearly 30 days before being notified where his base was located and when to report. The majority of Don’s time was served as a missile firefighter, and he was involved in numerous missile explosion fires. His first experience with a major structure fire was the NCO Club at the Army Camp south of Vandenberg. Only the foundation was saved in the devastating fire.
From October, 1960 to October, 1962 Don served at Nouassuer Air Base in North
Africa, just outside of Casablanca, Morocco. He was involved in fighting fires on many different types of aircraft and structures, including the loss of their NCO club. Don had the unique experience of fighting a fire on an ocean going tanker delivering jet fuel in the port of Casablanca. In November, 1963, Don was reassigned to Castle Air Force Base, fighting aircraft and structure fires. One, which coincidentally, burned down their NCO Club. After Castle, Don spent one year in Thailand. True to past history and very interesting, their NCO club was also a casualty of fire. From April, 1965 through April, 1966, his group supported aircraft flying missions over North Vietnam. Don returned to Castle Air Force base in May, 1966, and received his discharge.
Back in Fresno and civilian life, Don became a custodian at Saint Agnes Hospital, where in February, 1968 he became acquainted with a pretty insurance clerk, Elizabeth Mary Stumpfhauser. The relationship flourished and they were married in April, 1969. Don and Elizabeth have one daughter Rebecca and her husband Britt, who have five children (one deceased). They have one son Christopher and his wife Crizilda, who have one child. Their grandchildren are a big part of Don and Elizabeth’s lives.
Don joined the 144th Fighter Interceptor Wing (Fresno) in 1968 as their Fire Chief; retiring in 1992. His entire military career was spent as a firefighter. After military retirement, Don worked for seven years at Sebring West Automotive Center in Fresno, and began joining various volunteer organizations. Don joined the Fresno Area Retirees Council in 2004, where he met Veterans Affairs Service Officer Tom Gentile. Realizing Don’s dedication to veterans, Tom drafted Don into service as a Veterans Affairs Officer at the Veterans Memorial Museum “Home of the Legion of Valor”. Don enjoys his time at the museum because of his extreme interest in military history and his ability to help veterans and retirees with their military problems.
Don and Elizabeth’s son Christopher had settled in Texas and encouraged his parents to move there. Being the perfect opportunity to get better acquainted with their new grandbaby, they both jumped at the chance. It was only a short time afterwards that Don passed away.