A Battle Creek native and World War II veteran who served under General Patton is celebrating his 100th birthday.

Don Tuck is joining an elite club. Thursday, August 12, 2021, he will join the growing list of centenarians for the area. Donald Ray Tuck grew up on a farm northeast of Battle Creek. His mother was an accomplished vocalist and piano teacher and that musical talent rubbed off on her son. Don mastered the guitar and sang Irish and Scottish folk songs on the radio and began playing cello by 12. As a young man, he accompanied the Methodist Church choir singers on his guitar. They even performed at the World’s Fair in Chicago.

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Early Life Health Struggles

During high school, Don developed osteomyelitis and was ill for a couple of years putting him a few years behind in school. Doctors said that he would never be drafted and that he was ineligible for military service due to the condition. After receiving his diploma from Battle Creek Central in 1941, Don worked for a short time at Sears, Roebuck & Co. However, he was called up and went through basic training. Army physicians told Don that he would be sent home due to his previous condition but orders to that effect never came. While on leave he married another Battle Creek native, Hattie Mae North. She orchestrated a full, formal wedding in only three days. The family joke is that “those war-bride marriages will never last.” The two have proved all naysayers wrong and will celebrate 77 years of marriage this November.

Don's Time In The Service

Don served 3 and 1/2 years in the U.S. Army during World War II and achieved the rank of Sergeant. The trip to Germany was on a troopship in very rough seas. Don told his family that everyone on board was sick from the motion of the violent waves. The waves were so high that the whole back end of the ship in front of the one Don was on in the convoy would come up out of the water, revealing the propellers in the air. Don was Chief of Section in the 412th battalion of the 20th Armored Field Artillery Division in Patton’s tank corps, he was in charge of a 105 mm mobile field artillery piece mounted on a Sherman tank base. His unit was the first one that liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. Don witnessed piles of decaying bodies and emaciated prisoners who were barely alive. Another unit took over in managing the Death Camp, and his unit moved further into Germany. He was subsequently at Hitler’s Eagles Nest where he was photographed standing in front of one of the huge picture windows there.

After The War & Family Life

After the war, Don returned to Battle Creek and Sears. The store was on Michigan Avenue opposite what is now the city parking ramp. He was employed by Sears for 36 years. Don eventually became division manager of the paint department after the store moved to what is the current location of Horrocks. He retired in 1976.

Don's family says he is a talented carpenter, making furniture and building several houses, including the one the Tucks occupy in the rural Battle Creek area. His other hobbies included being a private pilot and restoring small airplanes. He once assisted in building a biplane from scratch. He was a member of the former Thunder Aviation Club in Marshall. He even had a hangar and landing strip in the backyard. After he retired from Sears, Don and his wife Hattie rebuilt and sold 14 different planes out of their garage.

Don is proud of his Scottish heritage and still has a full Scottish outfit with kilt, tam-o-shanter, bagpipes, and other accoutrements. He performed for the Scottish Club and other gatherings, playing his guitar and singing Irish and Scottish folk songs.

Personal Life and Charity Work

Most of Don’s activities have centered around his lifelong membership at First United Methodist Church. Don was a lay speaker, certified by the West Michigan Methodist Conference. He frequently led worship services when pastors were on vacation. He also was a soloist for several churches around town on a part-time basis. With his great bass voice, Don was often asked to be the soloist for area weddings. Both he and Hattie sang in the church’s Sanctuary Choir. They were crew leaders for many years at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, on the fourth Monday of every month. They also participated in the “Mellow Methodists” service group.

A Growing Family Tree

He and Hattie are the parents of three children: a son, Kim A. Tuck, and two daughters, Kathleen A. Kissinger and Shelley L. Vogt. Kathleen passed away 27 years ago. They also have six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

A celebratory open house will be held in honor of Don's well-lived life. I asked what Don's secret to a long life is. Don always tells people that it is his wife Hattie's amazing cooking, mostly using whole food ingredients from her garden.

If you would like to send a 100th birthday greeting, mail your congratulatory wishes to:

Donald R. Tuck

First United Methodist Church

111 East Michigan Avenue

Battle Creek, MI 49014

LOOK: 100 years of American military history