In loving memory of Donald Mapes who contributed a wealth of time and dedication to Middleburg Heights

Donald Mapes presides over the annual Memorial Day observances in Middleburgh Heights on Friday, May 24, 2013. He has run the celebration for 20 years. (Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)

It is with deep sadness that we inform you of the passing of Donald Mapes who was a dear friend to all in the city of Middleburg Heights. (February 17, 1926-October 3, 2013)

Tomon and Sons Funeral Home located at 7327 Pearl Road, MIddleburg Heights. Calling Hours will be held Tuesday, October 8,2013 from (2:00 pm-4:00pm) and (6:00 pm -8:00pm). The Funeral Service will be held on Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 10:00 am at Tomon and Sons Funeral Home.

Please see the article below: Written by Brian Albrecht of The Plain Dealer on May 25, 2013

On Friday Donald Mapes participated in the 20th Memorial Day ceremony that he has helped organize in Middleburg Heights. During the ceremony, Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary Starr praised Mapes’ efforts, describing him as “a quiet man and a dedicated soldier.” Thomas Ondrey, The Plain Dealer

Back when Donald Mapes was a child growing up in a small Pennsylvania town, Memorial Day never brought home the impact of war as much as his father’s quiet example as a World War I veteran.

Mapes, 87, recalled that his father, who’d served in France, never talked about the war. But whenever lightning and thunder rolled in like an artillery barrage, Mapes could see how much it upset his father.

Eventually Mapes — a World War II and Korean War veteran — found a way to put words and actions to his father’s unspoken feelings, and those of anyone who knows the cost of combat.

This year will be the 20th that Mapes has helped organize the Middleburg Heights Memorial Day commemoration.

Mapes said he started the ceremony for two reasons. One, the city didn’t have one. And two, a heart attack convinced him to give something back to the community while he still could.

Donald Mapes helps guide his 20th Memorial Day ceremony in Middleburg HeightsThis year is the 20th that Donald Mapes, an Army veteran of World War II and the Korean War, has helped organize the Memorial Day ceremony in Middleburg Heights. He says it’s hyis way of contributing to the community and an appreciation of the true meaning of the holiday.

He organized the event on his own for seven years at the Tri-City Senior Center until the ceremony was moved to the Veterans Memorial Plaza and a committee was created to help him plan the event.

Mayor Gary Starr described Mapes as “a tremendous volunteer. He’s really the heart and soul behind the organization of Memorial Day.”

The ceremony is always held on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Starr said that enables schoolchildren to attend and hear a “living testimony” by veterans at the event as to the meaning of Memorial Day.

The event usually consists of the patriotic formalities (National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance), recognition of three veterans from any period of military service, sometimes a keynote speaker, two buglers playing “echo taps,” and box lunches for upwards of 200 or more people.

Prior to this year’s ceremony on Friday, Mapes noted, “We’ve done this so many times that it’s more or less routine.

“But you can’t take nothing for granted,” he quickly added. “To me, every one is special.”

Mapes assumes various tasks in guiding the program and thanking the veterans groups and Middleburg Heights students who participate.

He believes Memorial Day should be a learning experience so people can understand the reason for the holiday, and that “the freedoms they have today are mainly because of the veterans.”

Donald Mapes, right, was photographed during duty in China where he served as an Army communications specialist, dodging both Japanese and Chinese bullets.

They’re lessons he learned as an Army Air Forces communications specialist who served in China during World War II.

He survived two jungle ambushes by Japanese soldiers, and a tense time when his unit was pinned down for five days after being caught in a crossfire between Chinese Communist and Nationalist troops.

During the Korean War, Mapes was part of testing and development of a truck carrier for the Honest John rocket. (A book he wrote about his military service, “Memories from the Heart,” is available on Amazon.com.)

After the war, Mapes came to Cleveland to work at Ford’s Brook Park auto plant where he retired as a maintenance supervisor. He and his first wife, Alice (now deceased), had two children. He has been married to his second wife, Patricia, for 41 years. ]

Mapes said that initially he was like many other vets who just wanted to put the war behind them, get a job and raise a family. Celebrating Memorial Day was a distant priority.

The same may be true with contemporary veterans, he said. Attendance and participation at the Middleburg Heights Memorial Day event has gone down in recent years, he said.

“Right now it’s getting more difficult to get veterans who are interested,” he noted. “The [number of] World War II veterans are decreasing, the Korean War veterans, too, and the Vietnam and other veterans may not be interested in it yet.”

It’s a worrisome trend, but Mapes is confident that Memorial Day will endure.

“There’ll probably be a decreased period, then it’s going to start back up again and the people — the veterans and everybody else — will keep it going,” he said.

The losses represented by that day are too important to forget, he said. He’s all for preparedness, yet he believes that “everything should be done that can be done to prevent wars.”

His father understood the sacrifices honored on Memorial Day, even if he didn’t talk about them.

Mapes remembered when the old vet went with him to the induction center when he joined the Army.

“I couldn’t wait. I wanted to do my part,” he said.

As for his father, “he started crying,” Mapes recalled in a voice choked with emotion.

“He said, ‘Take me instead.’ “