Donald Edward Small, 83, died peacefully at home on June 29, 2014, in Clear Lake City. Don was born in Oakwood, Georgia, on July 5, 1930. He graduated from St. Andrews High School in Charleston, South Carolina and attended the College of Charleston before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1948, attaining rank of Staff Sergeant while also completing courses at Mississippi Southern College. Following his discharge, he studied engineering at The Citadel and at the Radio Engineering Institute. In 1953, Don began his career with Link Aviation as a Field Engineer designing simulators for pilot training. In 1962, Don began support work on the NASA Apollo Mission Simulator. In 1964, Don and family moved to Lancaster, California, where he completed the task of integrating separate computer, motion, and visual systems into the first-of-its-kind T-27 Spaceflight Simulator at the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. In 1969, Don and his family moved to Clear Lake City. The incredible ingenuity and teamwork of astronauts, flight controllers, engineers and supporting personnel brought the Apollo 13 mission to a successful conclusion on April, 17, 1970. While there were several teams tasked with calculating the final trajectory of the Apollo 13 capsule, it was Don’s team that made the closest projection of where the capsule would land in the Pacific Ocean. In subsequent years, Don became SIMCON Engineering Manager with Singer-Link, leading the Shuttle Simulation Requirements Study for NASA. Don retired in 1989.
Don’s greatest supporter was his wife, Regina Mangold, whom he married on January 12, 1957, and their marriage lasted for 57 loving years. A kind and gentle man, Don leaves behind to mourn him, his beautiful and forever bride, Regina, his loving children, daughter Jessica Ann Wilson and husband Bill Wilson, Jr., their children Billy Don Wilson, III, Forrest Lee Wilson and wife Ashley, Donald Wilson and wife Sarah; daughter Amy Jo Hamilton and best friend, James Hamilton; son Charles Albert Small and wife Mary, their daughters, Samantha and Onna, and Charles’ son Paul and Paul’s son, Charles. Don is also survived by his siblings, William Small and Reba Lefever, sister-in-law, Ophelia Small, numerous nieces and nephews, and his good friend, Dan Franklin.
Don is preceded in death by his parents, Glenn and Stella Small, brothers, Harold Small and William “Gerald” Small, and sister, Glennette Baldwin.
Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
A gathering for Don’s family and friends will be held at a later date.
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