The famous but tragic fate of the five Sullivan brothers, who made the ultimate sacrifice together on the U.S.S. Juneau in World War II, had to be weighing on Maebelle Hunter’s mind when five of her eleven children all joined the military in the middle of the Vietnam War. Henry “Buddy” Hunter, the eldest of the five, joined the Air Force ahead of Donald, Randy, Larry and Lenny, who all volunteered for the Army Signal Corps at a time when many other young men were looking for ways to avoid the unpopular and treacherous trip to the jungles of Indochina. Close throughout their childhood on Spruce Street on Stamford’s West Side, the Hunter brothers were not about to let a mere war come between them.
Donald, the middle child of the five, spent one year in-country, running weapons in Lu Binh. Assigned to an area of heavy fighting, Donald was awarded the Bronze Star, though he prefers to let the history of his heroics remain within him. His Stamford childhood, on the other hand, is something he is happy to reminisce about and share. Losing their father when Donald was just seven, Maebelle Hunter faced the enormous challenge of being a single mother of eleven working long hours as a domestic. But Donald says Spruce Street “was a neighborhood full of mamas”, so getting in trouble was not an option. Of Maebelle, he recalls, she was tough, but that “she was the most beautiful woman in the world.”
The brothers have remained close. For years Donald hosted horseshoe matches at his home, and claims to be the champ. While that may be disputed by his brothers, there is no argument that Henry, Randy, Donald, Larry and Lenny, as members of the same bowling team for twenty five years, won the Connecticut State U.S.B.C Open Tournament in 2012!
Donald worked at the Stamford Marriott for many years until his retirement. He and his wife of 48 years, Shirley, still live in Stamford and have eight children, eleven grandchildren and ten greatgrandchildren. When asked if they are all still close, Donald says with a smile “Close? I can’t get rid of ‘em!”
Stamford COTY understands why Donald Hunter’s family likes to be around him and is happy to recognize him as a distinguished veteran.